Written by attorney Michael W. Eaton

Is Recording a Deed necessary to Convey Title in Texas?


While the majority of deeds are in fact, recorded, recordation or “filing" is not a legal requirement for conveyance, and a Central Appraisal District is not entitled to a copy of a “filed deed" as evidence of ownership. The Texas Property Code addresses this issue directly. Property Code Sec. 13.001 (a) notes that a conveyance of real property is not valid with respect to “a creditor or to a subsequent purchaser for a valuable consideration without notice…unless the instrument has been…filed for record.." However, Sec. 13.001(b) specifically provides that, “The unrecorded instrument is binding on a party to the instrument, on the party’s heirs, and on a subsequent purchaser who does not pay a valuable consideration…" In short, the Texas Property Code states that an executed and delivered deed is binding on the parties to the deed (that is, the buyer and seller) without the necessity of recording or filing the deed.

The Texas Supreme Court has long held that recording a deed is not necessary to convey title to real estate. Perhaps the best known case in which the Court so held is Thornton v. Rains, 299 S.W.2d 287, 157 Tex. 65 (Tex. 1957), in which the Court specifically stated that “the recording of a deed is not essential to the conveyance of title." Ibid. at 288.

In 1963, another Court expanded on the theme, by holding, “In the absence of evidence to the contrary, a deed will be presumed to have been delivered at the time of its execution… The recording of the deed was not essential to the conveyance of title." Lichtenstein v. F&M National Bank of Kaufman, 372 S.W.2d 716, 718 (Tex. Civ. App.-Dallas 1963, no writ).

Finally, in a more recent holding, a Court of Appeals has reaffirmed the legal fact that recording of a deed is not necessary for the deed to be a binding and valid conveyance of real estate. The Court, citing both Lichtenstein and Thornton, supra, stated in unequivocal terms, “It is not necessary that a deed be recorded in order to be effective as a conveyance of title." Bell v. Smith, 532 S.W.2d 680, 685 (Tex. App.– Fort Worth, writ ref’d.).

When a deed which was executed by a seller and delivery to a buyer occurs, both the Texas Property Code and an uninterrupted line of Texas court decisions make it clear that a valid conveyance from seller to buyer occurred. Because the deed is a binding conveyance from buyer to seller, a Central Appraisal District has no legal standing or authority to require that a deed be filed of record to constitute a conveyance between these parties.

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