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Court Records vs Official Records and Tax Deed Files

Let’s go over a very important distinction.  This relates to the difference between court records and official records. Official records are documents such as a deed or a mortgage are filed at Courthouse.  They are assigned a either a book and page number  or instrument numbers and become  part of the official records for that county and community.  These official records are usually held at the clerk of the court and you can find them on the clerk’s website labeled official records.

Then there are documents considered court records and an example of a court record would be a foreclosure case file.  When a property goes into foreclosure there is going to be a foreclosure case file started on it and in that file will contain a multitude of documents and things that are filed between the parties in the case and the court. 

lf you have ever gone to the courthouse to review a foreclosure file you find they are huge and contain a stack of documents.   That foreclosure file is not recorded into the official records; it is part of the court records.  The final resolution of the case will be recorded in the official records.  In the case of a foreclosure that would be the final ruling on the case which is represented as a deed to the new owner if the plaintiff wins their case. 

So when you are looking for documents at the county government level, know that there are two different types of records – the court records and official records.  The court records contain more detail about a case and the official records contain the ruling, final outcome etc. 

A long time ago, before the internet or big fancy courthouses, a town had a big tree in the town square and that’s where people would literally stick their deeds and their mortgages as a form of public notice to the rest of the community.  Whoever had an interest and the public would be able to read what was on the tree.  Now we have the courthouse, a docket system and more convenient methods for recording and giving notice. 

Another example is a Probate case where there is usually a personal representative’s deed signed to give the deceased person’s property to the heirs(s).  The PR deed is filed in the official records of the county and you’ll also find a copy of it in the court records.   In the court records you’ll see what led up to that personal representative’s deed being signed. 

Same thing for the tax deed file.  The tax deed file is part of the court record and not the official record.  When the property sells at the tax deed sale they will sign over a tax deed to the winner of the auction.  That tax deed will be filed in the official records for the world to see that there is a new owner.  You could go to the court file and review the tax deed file to examine the events that led up to the tax deed auction.

It becomes much easier when you are looking up records to understand this distinction.  If you have any other questions feel free to reach out to me.

Sandra Edmond has been a full time real estate investor since 2004.  She has been included in a front page article in the Orlando Business Journal about tax delinquent properties.  Sandra specializes in tax liens and buying properties at the tax deed sales.  Prior to Real Estate, she was a Television News Reporter where she learned the finer points of Florida’s Public Record laws.  She graduated from UCF and is a Past President of the Central Florida Realty Investor Association.  She is a broker associate with Matrix International Realty and owns Ardnas, Inc. She celebrates 16 years real estate investing in 2020!