As title people we are creatures of habit. We do not embrace change quickly or without angst. We take comfort in doing things the way our mentors taught us; the same way that their mentors taught them and their mentors before that. How many things do we do on a daily basis simply because that is the way it has always been done; the same way that it was done 100 years ago? Sometimes we need to look at those things and ask ourselves why they are done that way. If we do some digging we might find a good explanation. Sometimes we find an explanation that no longer makes sense. Maybe the law has changed, or local contract requirements have changed, or the underwriter has changed its position on something. Occasionally technology allows us to do something better than what came before. If we can make something better we need to embrace change.
One thing that title people hate to change is that wonderful old legal description that has been carried through from 1870. You know the one. It starts at the old walnut stump at the side of the road and then goes sixty chains more or less to the creek, then up the creek to the deer path next to the old barn that burned in 1850, then along the deer path to the stone wall and along the wall back to the road. In 2016 the surveyor actually manages to find evidence of all of those landmarks and gives us nice accurate measurements between them with his laser measuring devices, yet chances are the deed to the purchaser will be recorded using that same old description from 1870. And someone will insure it! This is the time when we need to embrace change. Do your due diligence. Make sure that what the surveyor is showing fits with the neighboring descriptions and lines of occupation. Draw up a description that is modern and accurate and makes sense. Making a change makes it easy to know exactly what is being insured.
Sometimes we need to break away from old ways of doing things in order to make it easy to know exactly what we are not insuring. Think about the survey exception. What do you put in your survey exception? Did your mentor teach you to exhaustively list every detail that you see on the survey? Are there things that are shown on the survey that should be exceptions from coverage, but don’t really seem like exceptions when they are just part of the laundry list of things that are shown on the survey? When you look at your exception, is it clear what you are excepting from coverage? For every item that you put in your survey exception you should ask yourself if you are putting it there because you want to except it from coverage and whether you have shown it in a manner that makes it clear that it is an exception to coverage. We might think that we have correctly excepted something because it was in our survey reading. A title person would know that. But the insured is not a title person and the judge that handles the lawsuit probably will not be one either. If the survey exception contains a long list of things that are not exceptions, how will they know what items are not covered by the policy? Since the insurer drafted the exceptions, any ambiguities will be interpreted against us. It’s time to change our ways and start rethinking our survey exceptions. The only things that should be in a survey exception are the things that we choose to except from coverage.