A title plant, also known as an abstract plant, is a database records, indexed geographically. They are records that track and show all instruments connected to a tract of land, going back at least 25 years. Title plants are what companies use to issue title insurance policies. The organization in charge of title plants in Texas – the Texas Department of Insurance – must arrange title plants in lot/block for subdivided lands or survey/section for acreage tracts. A title plant can impact the title to real property. Here’s what you need to know about title plants.
Why Do Title Plants Exist?
Title plants maintain property records, categorized by both the legal description of the land and by name-indexes. Texas law requires all title companies to either own or lease title plants before taking customers. This is to protect consumers.
Since the goal of a title company is to ensure a clear title, it needs title plants to gain access to the most recent, updated version of legal documents relating to a tract of land or parcel of property. If the title company cannot clarify ownership rights, it is the company's job to remove barriers, accept the risks, or deny the request for title insurance.
Title plants are necessary to keep track of land titles and all related documents. A few companies in Texas that own their own title plants include Great American Title, American Land Title, and Texas Title. Other title companies lease title plants instead of owning them. Leasing a title plant gives the insurer access to their services and records, for a fee (sometimes thousands of dollars per month, even for modest title companies).
Again, a title company cannot operate without owning or leasing a title plant. Title plants help to reduce the cost of title insurance for consumers. Title insurance protects mortgage providers as well as homeowners in the event of hidden issues with a title. If issues do arise during the processing of a real estate transaction, title insurance can prevent the lender and/or the owner (based on the type of insurance) from incurring the costs. Title plants help to keep land documents updated, reducing the risk of title insurance claims and therefore lowering its cost.
What Does a Title Plant Include?
In Texas, title plants consist of fully indexed records, with documents showing all instruments impacting land within the county. Each piece of land will have a record dating back at least 25 years prior to the date of the record search. The records in a title plant must be organized based on the geographic location of the land. Miscellaneous indexes will be in order alphabetically according to name. Title plants can include many different features and types of records, including the following:
- Abstracts of judgement
- Chattel mortgages
- Deeds of trust
- Divorce actions
- Lis pendens
- Plat maps
- Probate records
Death certificates are some of the only records you won’t find in a title plant. The Texas Department of Insurance must keep these instruments on file under the correct tract of land, organized by lot/block or survey/section depending on the property. The point of a title plant is to keep track of fully indexed records that affect a tract of land. Records of a property can establish ownership, liens, civil actions, bankruptcies, and much more. When an insurance carrier or other party needs access to a property’s information and official instruments, it will have to go through the title plant.
Where Are Title Plants Located?
In the past, all title plants were brick-and-mortar establishments that were expensive to build and maintain. A single title plant could contain thousands of paper documents, making record retrieval a time-consuming task. In recent years, however, title plants have gone digital more and more often – saving money and resources.
The state of Texas permits computerized title plants, but the records must be subject to retrieval based on a description of the property. An official must keep each abstract plant title updated and maintained at all times according to the most current information. Digital title plants are easier and cheaper to maintain, as well as simpler to search for specific records, than traditional title plants.
Instead of bringing your issue to a building with thousands of paper documents, you can simply conduct your search online from the comfort of your home or office. Looking up a title plant online can enable cross-referencing data from multiple sources, comparing documents to ascertain the most current or accurate information about a tract. Enhanced digital searches make title plant processes more efficient.
Are There Still Physical Title Plants?
Non-digital title plants still exist in Texas despite the push toward online record databases. Plenty of legal land documents remain stored in courthouses in Texas, with title plants that exist on paper. Some title plants have consolidated their records and joined together to increase efficiency and make it easier to find records.
Physical title plants might not be the easiest places to find the information you’re looking for, but they still get the job done. Unless you’re a title insurance agent or county clerk, odds are you will not have access to a title plant. Instead, you’ll need to go through a title insurance company.
Why Title Plants Are Important
Much goes into hunting down land titles, analyzing them, and using the information in the title insurance industry. Verifying facts and ensuring that the buyer of a piece of property receives a clear title is what a title insurance company does. Title plants make this mission much easier. Title plants make it possible for title insurance companies to search for and find property records based on identifying information. They ensure the instruments connected to a tract of land are accurate, correct, up-to-date, and ready to go for title insurers.
Benefits of Title Plants Over Courthouses
Although insurance companies could use public record searches to come up with the property information they need – through the county recorder’s office – accessing a title plant is a more accurate method. Title plants index documents by property, instead of just by names. This is important because some judgments that may encumber a property are only in the person’s name, not in the property records. Title plants make it easy for insurers to locate documents that apply to a specific person and property, not just any “John Doe.”
Title plants also differ from county clerk records because they are often more accurate. While county record information can often be incorrect (e.g. misspelled names, missing documents, incorrect indexing, etc.), title plants come with a stronger guarantee that the information is current, correct, and complete. This is because title insurance companies have a lot to lose in the event of inaccurate title indexes. They work extra hard on keeping title plants accurate because their livelihood depends on it.
Finally, title plants make title searches more efficient for insurance companies compared to courthouses. A courthouse full of records depends on title examiners to research and find documents. Title examiners are relatively scarce, as it takes a great deal of training. Examiners must locate documents based on name alone – a process that can take hours or even days. In contrast, a geographically indexed title plant makes it much easier to locate specific documents – even without a trained examiner.
Title plants have been useful to insurance companies and consumers for decades. They will continue to play an integral role in property transfers and other matters involving titles, thanks to their efficiency and the requirements of Texas law.