TexasFile Document Terms

Use this glossary of document types and terms to better understand what types of data is located on Texasfile


    Abstract of Title - A compilation of all the recorded documents relating to a parcel of land.

    Abstract of Judgment - A lien created by a statutory filing of a court judgment in the real property records. This lien, commonly referred to as an AJ (in Texas), attaches to all nonexempt real property of the person or entity that the judgment was against.

    Access - The right to enter and leave a tract of land from a public way. Can include the right to enter and leave over the lands of another.

    Accretion - The slow build-up of lands by natural forces such as wind or water.

    Acknowledgment - A formal declaration before an authorized officer (usually a notary public) by a person who has executed an instrument that such execution is the individual's act.

    Acre - A tract of land 208.71 feet square and containing 43,560 square feet of land.

    Administrator - A person appointed by a probate court to settle the estate of an individual that has died. The term is "administratrix" if such person is a woman.

    Adverse Possession - A claim made against the lands of another by virtue of open and notorious possession of said lands by the claimant.

    Affiant - One who swears to or affirms the statement in an affidavit.

    Affidavit - A statement in writing sworn or affirmed to before an official (usually a notary public) who has the authority to administer an oath or affirmation.

    Affirmative Coverage - Provisions in policies by which the insurer affirmatively insures against loss due to specific risks generally not covered by policies.

    Air Rights - The right to ownership of everything above the physical surface of the land.

    All Inclusive Rate - The system of quoting rates for insurance where the stated rate includes the cost of title search, title examination, closing the transaction and the policy. This system is in contrast with the system which quotes the rate charged for the policy only. The cost of search and examination in this latter system is extra.

    Appraisal - An estimate of value of property from analysis of facts about the property; an opinion of value.

    Appurtenances - Rights which pass with the title to the land itself. These rights may affect other lands; e.g., an appropriate access easement over adjoining land.

    Assessment - The imposition of a tax, charge or levy, usually according to established rates by a taxing authority or a unit or subdivision governing authority.

    Assessor - A public official who evaluates property for the purpose of taxation.

    Assignee - One to whom a transfer of interest is made. For example, the assignee of a mortgage or contract.

    Assignment - A transfer of (or the document transferring) a right and/or interest in land. Used often in transferring interests of a mortgagee or lessee.

    Assignor - One who makes an assignment. For example, the assignor of a mortgage or contract.

    Attachment - Legal seizure of property to force payment of a debt.

    Attorney in Fact - One who holds a power of attorney from another allowing him or her to execute legal documents such as deeds, mortgages, etc., on behalf of the grantor of the power.

    Attorney’s Opinion - The written statement of an attorney setting forth what he believes to be the condition of a real estate title.


    Bankruptcy - A federal court proceeding in which debtors may be relieved of liability for their debts after surrender of their assets to a court appointed trustee.

    Beneficiary (of a Trust) - A person designated to receive some benefit from the trust estate.

    Bill of Sale - A written document that transfers title to personal property.

    Binder - An enforceable agreement that upon satisfaction of the requirements which are stated in the binder the insurer will issue the specified title insurance policy subject only to the exceptions stated in the binder.

    Bond - (1) An insurance agreement under which one party becomes surety to pay, within stated limits, financial loss caused to another by specified acts or defaults of a third party. (2) An interest bearing security evidencing a long-term debt, issued by a government or corporation, and sometimes secured by a lien on property.

    Broker - Real Estate: One who acts as an agent for another in negotiating sales or purchases in return for a fee or commission. Mortgage: Refers to a company or individual that does not lend the money for the loans themselves, but broker loans to larger lenders or investors.

    Building (Restriction) Line or Setback - A line fixed at a certain distance from the front and/or sides of a lot or of a certain distance from a road or street, which line marks the boundary of the area within which no part of any building may project. This line may be established by a filed plat of subdivision, by restrictive covenants in deeds or leases, by building codes, or by zoning ordinances.

    Bureau of Land Management - The branch of government in charge of surveying and managing public lands.


    CC&Rs - Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. See "Conditions and Restrictions."

    Certificate of Title - A written opinion by an attorney that ownership of the particular parcel of land is as stated in the certificate.

    Chain of Title - A term applied to the past series of transactions and documents affecting the title to a particular parcel of land.

    Claim - A right to assert, or the assertion of, a demand for payment of money due; or the surrender or delivery of possession of property or the recognition or some right. A demand for something as one's rightful due.

    Cloud on Title - An outstanding claim or encumbrance which adversely affects the marketability of title.

    Commitment - A promulgated form issued by a title insurance company, or its agent, committing the title insurance company to issue the form of policy designated in the commitment upon compliance with and satisfaction of requirements set forth in the commitment.

    Common Areas - Ownership characterized by mutual ownership of common areas, either jointly or through membership in an association, e.g., condominiums, planned unit developments, and townhomes.

    Community Property - A category of property, existing in some states, in which all property (except property specifically acquired by husband or wife a separate property) acquired by a husband and wife, or either, during marriage, is owned in common by the husband and wife.

    Condemnation - (1) The lawful taking of private land for public use by a government under its right of eminent domain. (2) A declaration by a governmental agency that a building is unfit for use.

    Condition or Conditions - A proviso in a deed or will that, upon the happening or failure to happen of a certain event, limits, enlarges, changes or terminates the title of the purchaser or devisee.

    Conditions and Restrictions - Set of rules, limitations and restrictions established by a developer or homeowners’ association that governs the use of real estate. Includes penalties for failure to comply.

    Condominium - A system of individual fee ownership of units in a multi-unit structure, combined with joint ownership of common areas of the structure and land.

    Condominium Declaration - The document which establishes a condominium and describes the most important property rights of the unit owners. Special statutes in each state prescribe the contents of this document, known in some states as a "master deed."

    Contract for Deed - An agreement to sell and purchase under which title is held as security by the seller until such time as the required payments to the seller have been completed.

    Contract of Sale - Agreement by one person to buy and another person to sell a specified parcel of land at a specified price.

    Convey - The act of deeding or transferring title to another.

    Conveyance - (1) A document which transfers an interest in real property from one person to another; e.g., a deed. (2) The act of executing and delivering a deed or mortgage.

    Covenant - An agreement written into deeds and other instruments promising performance or non-performance of certain acts, or stipulating certain uses or non-uses of the property.

    Cul-de-Sac - The terminus of a street or alley. Usually laid out by modern engineers to provide a circular turnaround for vehicles.

    Curtesy - A husband's life estate in the property of his deceased wife. By statute in most states, it is a life estate in one third of the land she owned during their marriage. Curtesy has been abolished by statute in some states.


    Debt - An amount owed to another.

    Dedication - The granting of land by the owner for some public use and its acceptance for such use by authorized public officials.

    Deed - A written instrument duly executed and delivered by which the title to land is transferred from one person to another.

    Deed in Lieu - Short for Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, this conveys title to the lender when the borrower is in default and wants to avoid foreclosure.

    Deed of Trust - A conveyance of a land title by a maker of a note (the debtor) to a third party, a trustee, as collateral security for the payment of the note with the condition that the trustee shall reconvey the title to the debtor upon payment of the note, and with power in the trustee to sell the land and pay the note in the event of a default on the part of the debtor.

    Defect - A blemish, imperfection or deficiency. A defective title is one that is irregular and Faulty.

    Deficiency Judgment - A judgment against a person liable for the debt secured by a mortgage in an amount by which the funds derived from a foreclosure or trustee's sale are less than the amount due on the debt.

    Devise - The disposition of property by will.

    Devisee - The person to whom property is given by a will.

    Dower - An estate for life to which a married woman by statute is entitled on the death of her husband.


    Earnest Money - Advance payment of part of the purchase price made by a purchaser as evidence of good faith.

    Easement - A privilege or right of use or enjoyment which one person may have in the lands of another; for example, a right of way to install, operate, and maintain utility lines.

    Egress - The right to leave a tract of land. Often used interchangeably with "access."

    Eminent Domain - The power of the state to take private property for public use upon payment of just compensation.

    Encroachment - The intrusion of any improvement partly or entirely on the land of another or into an easement or setback area.

    Encumber - To burden a parcel of land with a lien or charge; e.g., a mortgage.

    Encumbrance - Any right or interest in land held by persons other than the fee owner which right or interest lessens the value of the fee title. Examples are judgment liens, easements, mortgages, restrictions.

    Escheat - The transfer of title of property to the state if the owner dies intestate and without heirs, or if the owner is unknown or fails to claim property within a set amount of time.

    Estate - A person's possessions. The extent of a person's interest in real property.

    Et Al - And others.

    Et Ux - And wife.

    Examination of Title - The investigation and interpretation of the record title to real property based on the title search or abstract.

    Examiner - Usually referred to, in title industry terms, as title examiner. One who examines and determines the condition and status of real estate titles.

    Exceptions - Those matters affecting title to the particular parcel of realty which matters are excluded from coverage of the particular title insurance policy.

    Exclusions - Those general matters affecting title to real property excluded from coverage of a title insurance policy.

    Executor - A person named in a will to administer the estate. Executrix is the feminine form.


    Fannie Mae - Federal National Mortgage Association (also FNMA) is a private corporation, federally chartered to provide financial products and services that increase the availability and affordability of housing by purchasing mortgage loans.

    Fannie Mae (FNMA) - The Federal National Mortgage Association, which is a congressionally chartered, shareholder-owned company that is the nation’s largest supplier of home mortgage funds.

    Fee Simple Estate - The greatest interest in a parcel of land that is possible to own. Sometimes designated simply as "fee."

    FHA - Federal Housing Administration, an agency of the federal government which insures private loans for financing of new and existing housing and for home repairs under government approved programs.

    Financing Statement - A document filed in the Real Property Records or with the Secretary of State to create a security interest in the title to personal property.

    Fixtures - Any item of property so attached to real property that it becomes a part of the real property.

    Flood Certification - This determines whether land or a building is located within a Special Flood Hazard Area for purposes of flood insurance requirements under the National Flood Insurance Program.

    Flood Insurance - Insurance that compensates for physical property damage resulting from flooding. It is required for properties located in federally designated flood areas.

    Foreclosure - Legal process by which a mortgagor of real property is deprived of interest in that property due to failure to pay the loan or comply with terms and conditions of the mortgage.

    Forfeiture of Title - Provision in a deed creating a condition which will cause title to be passed to another should certain circumstances occur.

    Freddie Mac - Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (also FHLMC) is a stockholder owned corporation charted by Congress that purchases mortgage loans.


    General Warranty Deed - A deed containing a covenant whereby the seller agrees to protect the buyer against being dispossessed because of any adverse claim against the land.

    GNMA (Ginnie May) - Government National Mortgage Association, a government corporation which provides a secondary market for housing mortgages and special assistance to mortgagee financing housing under special FHA mortgage insurance programs.

    Grantee - A person who acquires an interest in land by deed, grant, or other written instrument.

    Grantor - A person, who, by a written instrument, transfers to another an interest in land.

    Guardian - One appointed by the court to administer the affairs of an individual not capable of administering his or her own affairs.


    Harbor Line - An arbitrary line set by authorities on navigable rivers, beyond which wharves and other structures may note be built. Also designated as line of navigation.

    Heir - The person who, at the death of the owner of land, is entitled to the land if the owner has died without a will or if part or all of a will is ineffective.

    Hiatus - A gap or space unintentionally left, when attempting to describe adjoining parcels of land. The same as a vacancy.

    Homeowners’ Association - A nonprofit association that manages the common areas of a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium project.

    Homestead (Exemption) - A person's dwelling and that part of the land which is contiguous to the dwelling. Many states by statute give special privileges to such lands, such as exemptions from remedies of creditors.


    Improvements - Those additions to raw lands tending to increase value, such as buildings, streets, sewer, etc.

    Inchoate Dower - The imperfect interest which the law gives a wife in the lands of her husband. This is an interest which upon the death of the husband may ripen into possession and use. Most states have abolished dower rights.

    Inchoate Curtesy - The imperfect interest which the law gives a husband in the lands of his wife. This is an interest which upon the death of the wife may ripen into possession and use. Most states have abolished curtesy rights.

    Indemnity Agreement - An agreement by the maker of the document to pay up to the limit stated for any loss due to the contingency stated in the agreement.

    Ingress - The right to enter a tract of land. Often used interchangeably with "access."

    Intestate - Without having made a valid will or one who dies without having made a will.


    Joint Tenancy - An estate where two or more persons hold real estate jointly for life, the survivors to take the interest of the one who dies.

    Judgment - A decree of a court.

    Judgment Lien - See "Abstract of Judgment."

    Judicial Foreclosure - A type of foreclosure proceeding used in some states that is handled as a civil lawsuit and conducted entirely under the auspices of a Court. Other states use non-judicial foreclosure.



      Land - The land described, specifically or by reference, and improvements affixed thereto which by law constitute real property.

      Landmark - Any conspicuous object that helps establish land boundaries.

      Lease - a written agreement between the property owner and a tenant that stipulates the payment and conditions under which the tenant may possess the real estate for a specified period of time.

      Leasehold - The right to possession and use of land for a fixed period of time. The lease is the agreement which creates the right. The person who has the leasehold is the tenant or lessee. The person who grants the leasehold is the lessor or landlord.

      Legal Description - A property description which by law is sufficient to locate and identify the parcel of real property on the ground.

      Lien - A claim or charge on property of another for payment of some debt, obligation, or duty.

      Lien Waiver or Waiver of Liens - A document signed by the general contractor, each subcontractor, an each materialman of a construction project whereby the signators waive their right to mechanics' liens on the land involved in that particular project.

      Life Estate - A grant or reservation of the right of use, occupancy and ownership for the life of an individual.

      Link - A term of land measurement being 1/100th of a chain or 66/100ths of a foot.

      Lis Pendens - A recorded legal notice that there is litigation pending relating to the land and a warning that anyone obtaining an interest subsequent to the date of the notice may be bound by the judgment.

      Lot - A part of a subdivision or block having fixed boundaries ascertainable by reference to a plat or survey.


      M.E.R.S - Mortgage Electronic Registration System

      Mechanic's Lien - A lien or claim of lien allowed by statute to contractors, laborers and material suppliers on buildings or other structures upon which work has been performed or materials supplied.

      Metes and Bounds - A description of a parcel of land by describing the boundary lines in length and direction.

      Modification - Occasionally, a lender will agree to modify the terms of your mortgage without requiring you t refinance. If any changes are made, it is called a modification.

      Monument of Survey - Visible marks or indications left on natural or other objects indicating the lines and boundaries of a survey. May be posts, pillars, stones, cairns, and other such objects. May also be fixed natural objects, blazed trees, roads and even a water course.

      Mortgage - An instrument used to encumber land as security for a debt.

      Mortgagee - The lender who provides the money for the mortgage and to whom the mortgage is given.

      Mortgagor - The person who borrows the money from the mortgagee, and who signs the mortgage as security.


      Notary - One authorized to take acknowledgments. See "Acknowledgment."

      Note - A written promise to pay a certain amount of money, plus interest at a specified rate, at a certain time, and in a certain number of installments.


      Ownership - The right to possess and use property to the exclusion of others.


      Partition - Division of land, usually by a legal proceeding, among the parties who were formerly co-owners.

      Patent - A document or grant by which the federal or state government originally transferred title to public lands to an individual. The first in the series of transfers by which title comes down to present owners.

      Personal Property - Any property that is not real property

      Planned Unit Development (PUD) - A project consisting of individually owned parcels of land together with common areas and facilities that are owned by an association of which the owners of all the parcels are members.

      Plat (of Subdivision) - A map representing a piece of land subdivided into lots with streets and other matters affecting the subdivision.

      Plat (of Survey) - A map of land made by a surveyor showing boundary lines, buildings, and other improvements on the land.

      Power of Attorney - An instrument in writing by which one person, the principal, authorizes another, the attorney-in-fact, to act in the specific actions described in the instrument.

      Probate - A legal procedure in which the validity and probity of a document, such as a will, is proven.

      Promissory Note - A written promise to pay or repay a specified sum of money at a stated time, or on demand, to a named person. In addition to the payment of principal, a promissory note usually provides for the payment of interest.

      Public Records - Records which by law impart constructive notice of matters relating to land.


      Quiet Title - An action in a proper Court to remove record defects or possible claims of other parties named in the action.

      Quitclaim - A deed which transfers whatever interest the maker of the deed may have in the particular parcel of land.


      Range - A part of the government survey, being a strip of land six miles in width and numbered east or west of the principal meridian.

      Real Property - Land, together with fixtures, improvements and appurtenances.

      Record Title - The aspects of a title which appear in the public records as distinguished from unrecorded title aspects and interests.

      Recorder - The public official who keeps records of transactions that affect real property in the area. Sometimes known as a "Registrar of Deeds" or "County Clerk."

      Recording - The noting in the designated public office of the details of a properly executed legal document such as a deed or mortgage, thereby making it a part of the public record, and thus by law imparting constructive notice of that document to the public.

      Release - A document form the mortgagee or trustee of a deed of trust which releases specific property from the lien of the mortgage or deed of trust.

      Residential Real Property - Real property that is improved and is designed principally for occupancy by one to four families. The term includes an individual unit of a condominium or cooperative.

      Restrictions - Provision in deed or will or in a “Declaration of Condition, Reservations and Restrictions” which limits in some way the right to use land or convey its title. Examples are building setback lines and limitations to residential uses.

      Reversion - Provision in conveyance by which, upon the happening of an event or contingency, title to the land will return to the grantor or the successor in interest in the land.

      Right of Ingress or Egress - The right to enter or leave designated premises.

      Right of Survivorship - In joint tenancy, the right of survivors to acquire the interest of a deceased joint tenant.

      Right of Way - The right which one has to pass across the lands of another. An easement.

      Riparian - Pertaining to the banks of a watercourse. The owner of land adjacent to a watercourse is called a riparian owner and the rights of the riparian owner related to that watercourse are called riparian rights.


      Section or Section of Land - A parcel of land comprising one square mile or 640 acres.

      Set Back Lines - Those lines which delineate the required distances for the location of structures in relation to the perimeter of the property.

      Special Warranty Deed - A deed containing a covenant whereby the seller agrees to protect the buyer against being dispossessed because of any adverse claims to the land by the seller, or anyone claiming through the seller.

      Subdivision - A tract of land surveyed and divided into lots for purposes of sale.

      Sub-Surface Right - The right of ownership to things lying beneath the physical surface of the property.

      Survey - The process of measuring land to determine its size, location and physical description and the resulting drawing or map.


      Tax Lien - The lien which is imposed upon real estate by operation of law which secures the payment of real estate taxes.

      Tax Deed - The deed given to a purchaser at a public sale of land for non-payment of taxes. It conveys to the purchaser only such title as the defaulting taxpayer had and does not convey insurable title to that extent unless statutory procedures for the sale were strictly followed.

      Tenancy by the Entirety - Ownership by married persons where each owns the entire estate, with the survivor taking the whole upon the other’s death.

      Tenancy in Common - An estate or interest in land held by two or more persons, each having equal rights of possession and enjoyment, but without any right of succession by survivorship between the owners.

      Tenant - One who has right of possession of land by any kind of title. The word “tenant” used alone in modern times is used almost exclusively in the limited meaning of a tenant of a leasehold estate.

      Testament - Another term for a will. Commonly referred to as “last will and testament.”

      Testate - The estate or condition of leaving a will at death. “To die testate.”

      Testator - A man who makes or has made a testament or will.

      Testatrix - A woman who makes or has made a testament or will.

      Title - The evidence of right which a person has to the ownership and possession of land. Commonly considered as a history of rights.

      Title Company - A company that specializes in examining and insuring titles to real estate.

      Title Defect - Any legal right held by others to claim property or to make demands upon the owner.

      Title Examination - The search and examination of a title to determine the conditions of the title to be insured and to evaluate the risk to be undertaken in the issuance of a title insurance policy or other title insurance form.

      Title Insurance - Insurance against loss or damage resulting from defects or failure of title to a particular parcel of real property.

      Title Plant - The total facilities (records, equipment, fixtures, and personnel) required to function as a title insurance operation. Technically, the organization of official records affecting real property into a system which allows quick and efficient recovery of title information.

      Title Policy - Any contract of title insurance, the form for which is prescribed by the Commissioner.

      Title Search - An examination of public records, laws, and court decisions to disclose the current facts regarding ownership of real estate.

      Texas Land Title Association (TLTA) - a statewide trade association representing the title insurance industry in Texas.

      Torrens System - A governmental title registration system wherein title to land is evidenced by a certificate of title issued by a public official known as the registrar of title.

      Township - A division of territory six miles square, containing 36 sections or 36 square miles.

      Tract - A particular parcel of land.

      Transfer of Ownership - Any means by which the ownership of a property changes hands. Lenders consider all of the following situations to be a transfer of ownership: the purchase of a property "subject to" the mortgage, the assumption of the mortgage debt by the property purchaser, and any exchange of possession of the property under a land sales contract or any other land trust device.

      Trust - A property right held by one as a fiduciary for the benefit of another.

      Trustee - A person holding property in trust as a fiduciary for the benefit of another.


      Underwriter - An insurance company which issues insurance policies either to the public or to another insurer.


      Vendee - A purchaser of real property under land contract. (Buyer.)

      Vendor - A seller of real property under land contract. (Seller.)

      Vest - To become owned by.


      Waiver - The voluntary and intentional relinquishment of a known right, claim or privilege.

      Warranty - A promise by the grantor of real property that he or she is the owner and will be responsible to the buyer if title is other than represented.

      Warranty Deed - A deed in which the grantor warrants or guarantees that indefeasible title is being conveyed.

      Will - A written document providing for the distribution of property owned by a person after his or her death.




          Zoning - The right of a municipality to regulate and determine the compatible character and use of property.

        Source: Texas Land Title Association. Refer to TLTA's online glossary for more details and information.