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What is a Covenant of Seisin? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Kenneth Poortvliet
A covenant of seisin is a term used in England's feudal era that describes the type of ownership conveyed in the sale of land. In this lesson, we will explore that term and its modern day equivalent, as well as provide examples.

The Sale Of Land

Two years ago, Arthur bought a piece of land out in the country. After he built a house on the land, a man knocked on the door and told Arthur that he had a right to live in the house and he requested that Arthur leave. Arthur's attorney did some research on the title to the land, and told him that the man did have a life estate in the property, which entitled him to live there until he died.

Could that really happen?

A deed without a covenant of seisin exposes the buyer of land to just such a risk. Without a full title search and a proper deed drafted for the conveyance (transfer of property ownership) of a property, you may find that another person has a property interest in the land. A property interest in land refers to the extent of a person's ownership in a piece of real estate. It may be full or partial ownership, depending on the type of interest.

A typical home sale conveys all rights to the new homeowner.
Home For Sale

For example, Ted might convey his property to his nephew, but reserve for himself a life estate for Ted's or his wife's lives. This means that the nephew can take ownership, but Ted and his wife get to live there until they die. So what if Ted's nephew wants to sell his property? Under property law he could, but the new owners would have to take ownership with the life estate in favor of Ted and his wife. A full title research would show any other persons who have a current property interest.

Property Deeds

Land (real property or real estate) is unlike any other item when it comes to owning, buying or selling. A piece of land is unique because it has its own spot on the earth that no other piece can share. You can't move it or fully destroy it. As such, any conveyance of land has to be in writing, and that writing must spell out exactly what type of ownership is being transferred. In the U.S., that is accomplished with a deed, which spells out every property interest that is being transferred. There are numerous types of ownership that the grantor (person(s) selling/conveying the land) conveys to the grantee (person(s) buying/receiving the land), including the right to sell, possess, and lease to another, among others.

If a grantor conveys all rights under the sun, the grantee is getting a fee simple, which includes a guarantee that there are no encumbrances on the title. An encumbrance is any right or interest of a third party, or any debt, lien, or easement connected to the property. The most common is a mortgage held by a bank. Liens and judgments are also fairly common.

Covenant of Seisin

A covenant is a promise made between two or more parties. In land, it means that the conveyance of the property carries with it a promise or a condition upon which both parties have agreed. For example, let's say a religious couple donates a large tract of land to a college. In the deed, they put an agreement that the land will never be used for co-ed student housing. Once the grantee signs that, they are bound by it.

A covenant of seisin is an English feudal era term that means the grantor promises the grantee that he or she is getting a fee simple to the property. It means that the grantee can buy, sell, lease, possess, rent, or divide the property without any third party having any property interest. The word 'seisin' shares roots with the word seized, and means full possession. So any deed that contains a covenant of seisin means that the grantor is guaranteeing to the grantee that he or she is getting a fee simple, or all the rights possible relating to that land.

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