Skip to main content

Property Ownership, Deed, Title, Land Registration

San Jose, CA |

Is it true A) that in USA there is NO single governmental department or registry that authoritatively determines who owns some property, and B) that ownership is simply deduced from a bunch of paperwork that does not unambiguously show who owns what?

If those two conjectures are true, shouldn't there some some reform on land registration, at least in America, the land of capitalism?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 3


Each County has a Recorder's office in which records of property ownership are filed. The documents are considered public documents. The system has worked for more than 200 years. I'm unclear as to the point of your question.

Disclaimer: The materials provided below are informational and should not be relied upon as legal advice


The States of the United States are considered to have one of the best systems for land registration and ownership in the world. Ownership is largely determined under State Law, not under Federal Law. The american title insurance industry is based upon the notion that title can usually be predicted and confirmed with a good degree of confidence. It is, however, sometimes difficult to confidently determine the status of title if you are not a title professional or attorney. Still, real estate title records are public records in California, and you are free to review the history of deeds and transfers at the office of the county clerk or recorder. It very often times requires the opinion of an attorney to interpret the documents, but that does not mean that title is not clear under the law. Most title ambiguities are the result of bad deed drafting, not the deed registration system.

Brad C. Brereton

In all cases it is advisable to consult an experienced attorney. Nothing stated herein is intended as legal advice for your specific situation, and you should use the information provided solely for the purpose of choosing an experienced attorney for the problems presented.


You conjunctures are not correct - or only partly correct.

(A) While it is true that the US government does not maintain land records, it is also true that state governments do maintain property records.

(B) Ownership is not "simply deduced from a bunch of paperwork". Rather, it is deduced from an organized registry of grantors and grantees. The land records unambiguously shows who owns what parcel of property.

I have researched title to a parcel of property in Long Island back to the King of England. The chain of title is complete and clear.

If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.