Tangled Title: Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a tangled title?
Having the title to your home means that your name is on the deed. “Tangled title” refers to the situation when you live in a home you own (or have a right to own) but your name is not on the deed.
Most often, titles get tangled because the person whose name is on the deed passes away and that person’s relatives continue to live in the home without putting the deed in their name. At that point, the surviving relatives have a tangled title because they inherited an interest in the home, but their name is not on the deed. However, there are other ways for titles to get tangled.
2. Why does it matter if my title is tangled?
Tangled titles leave your home at risk for deed theft! Deed theft is when someone puts the title of your house in their name without you knowing about it or agreeing to it. This is more common than you might think, so it is important to prevent tangled titles or address them as soon as possible.
In addition, if your title is tangled, it can make it harder or impossible to maintain your home. Setting up utilities, applying for utility or mortgage assistance, and getting help making home repairs are all harder with a tangled title.
3. What should I do to prevent the title to my home getting tangled?
It is important to know whose name is on the title. If you aren’t sure, you can check at the following link for free: https://epay.phila-records.com/phillyepay/web/ Use the free public login, and then you can search either by address or by name.
If the house is in your name, make sure you know what you want to happen to the house when you pass away. If you want a particular person to get your house, you should consider making a will.
3. Why isn’t my name on the deed?
There are two possible scenarios:
- Your name isn’t on the deed, and it isn’t supposed to be. Perhaps you live with a relative, and your relative’s name is on the deed. In this situation, it’s best to talk to your relative about what they want, especially after they pass away. It is also a good idea for your relative to make a will.
- Your name isn’t on the deed, but it should be. There are a variety of reasons why this could be. It is best to seek out legal help, especially if you think someone might have stolen your deed.
If you can afford a lawyer, you can call the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) at 215-238-6333.
If you need free legal assistance, you can contact the Save Your Home Philly Hotline at 215-334-HOME (215-334-4663).
4. Why should I have a will?
When someone dies, their property and belongings have to go somewhere. If there is no will, Pennsylvania law will decide who gets everything. The law does not care who you were closest with during your life; even if you have a brother you haven’t spoken to for years, the law will still insist that he inherit instead of a cousin or friend you were closer to. However, with a will, you have more control! You can use a will to choose who gets what, who manages your property after you die, and, in some cases, how your property gets used.
5. My title is tangled, but there has not been deed theft. What should I do?
It depends on how your title got tangled. While a relative passing away is often the cause, it’s not the only thing that can cause a tangled title. It’s best to seek out legal assistance to make sure you don’t take on unnecessary risk or open yourself up to possible harm. Even if everything seems fine right now, there’s no reason to wait. In fact, waiting until something happens could make untangling your title even harder.
If you have more questions or think you might need legal help, call the Save Your Home Philly Hotline at 215-334-HOME (215-334-4336).