February 6, 2017

Applying the Marketable Record Title Act


For many of us that have tried to tackle an issue under the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA), Chapter 712, Florida Statutes, it can be challenging.  MRTA involves difficult concepts and uses uncommon terminology that can make it confusing.  However, a number of decisions interpreting MRTA by the Florida Supreme Court and the District Courts have shed considerable light on its operation and effect.  At its most basic, determining whether MRTA applies to a given title document can be broken down into a few steps.

The first step is determining the “root of title” for the subject property.  The root of title is defined in § 712.01(2), Fla. Stat. as the most recent applicable title transaction that is at least thirty years old from the date of the transaction or lawsuit in which you are attempting to apply MRTA.  Most often, the root of title will be a deed or similar document.  In a situation where the root of title is not a deed, the practitioner should make sure that the document purporting to be the root of title is a “title transaction”.  “Title transaction” is defined in § 712.01(3), Fla. Stat. as a recorded instrument or court proceeding which affects title to the subject property and sufficiently describes the subject property so that one can identify its location and boundaries.

The next step is to determine what interests or matters may be extinguished by MRTA.  Subject to the exceptions found in § 712.03, Fla. Stat., MRTA generally extinguishes “all estates, interests, claims, or charges whatsoever . . . that occurred prior to the effective date of the root of title.”  § 712.04, Fla. Stat.  Put another way, except for the interests excepted in § 712.03, Fla. Stat., interests that are older than the root of title are extinguished by MRTA and interests created after the recording date of the root of title are not extinguished.

If the interest being examined predates the root of title, the next step is to determine if the interest falls within one of the enumerated exceptions in § 712.03, Fla. Stat.  Interests which fall within one of the exceptions may not be extinguished by MRTA, even if they predate the root of title.

When determining whether a particular exception applies, it is important for the practitioner to pay attention to the defined terms used in § 712.03, Fla. Stat.  For example, § 712.03(1), Fla. Stat. uses the term “muniment of title”, which is not defined in Ch. 712, Fla. Stat., but has been defined by the Courts.[i]  Thus, the practitioner should test whether the document disclosing the estate, interest, easement or use restriction is also a “muniment of title”.  § 712.03(1) and (4), Fla. Stat. also use the term “title transaction”, so the practitioner should test whether the document being relied upon also meets the definition of “title transaction”.

[i] Florida Dept. of Transp. v. Clipper Bay Investments, LLC, 160 So. 3d 858 (Fla. 2015) and Matissek v. Waller, 51 So. 3d 625 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011).

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white” border_width=”2″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Scott M. Work is an Attorney based in Clark Partington’s Destin, Florida location. His practice focuses on all stages of real estate development, including his primary practice areas: residential and commercial real estate transactions, landlord and tenant matters, land use, associations and creditor’s rights. Scott received an LL.M. (Master of Law Degree) in real property development from the University Of Miami School Of Law. Scott was recently chosen as a Fellow for the Real Property Probate and Trust section of the Florida Bar.

Scott can be reached at swork@clarkpartington.com or (850) 269-8845.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]