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The Florida Bar
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PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 66-46
August 15, 1966

An attorney, who in the course of a title examination has ascertained information essential to the clearing of the title to one lot in a subdivision, may not use such information for the purpose of obtaining a quit claim deed to other lots from other parties to himself, with the intention of issuing quit claim deeds to parties subsequently needing to clear titles to other lots in the subdivision. This is so even though such procedure would be for the convenience of other attorneys in the locality and only a minimum fee would be charged for the preparation of the quit claim deed.

Canons: 28, Additional Rule 19

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of The Florida Bar advises that in the course of a title examination of a single lot of a subdivision he has discovered in the chain of title a conveyance to an individual “as agent” and a subsequent conveyance from that individual, joined by his spouse, without reference to agency.

Investigation independent of the public records of the county in question disclosed that other individuals residing in another county were in fact the principals of the agent and had ratified not only the subsequent conveyance from the agent in the chain in which the attorney is interested, but other lots in four sizeable subdivisions in the same county. The attorney in connection with his examination of the title accordingly procured an affidavit reciting the foregoing. Beyond this, he has been informed that it will be necessary to procure an affidavit from the former agent identifying and confirming the identity of the principals, and a quit claim deed from the principals and their spouses.

Seemingly, because of the size of the subdivision, the problem is apt to occur again. We are not, however, told of the particular relationship of the conveyances in question to the current ownership of record, or the actual possession of the land. Nevertheless, the inquirer “for the convenience of local attorneys” proposes to obtain a quit claim deed from the principals to all of the lots in all of the subdivisions in which the agent acted, joined by their spouses, to himself. He then proposes when an inquiry is subsequently made by other examining attorneys to him, to deliver to them or their clients a further quit claim deed direct to them, “charging only the then minimum fee set by our county bar association for the preparation of such deed.”

With perception the attorney raises the question whether this course of action would be violative of Canon 28 or Additional Rule 19. Laying aside the question whether the proposed procedure would not in fact complicate the title of the land, and the possible applicability of Sections 689.06 through 689.071, Florida Statutes, as questions of law beyond the jurisdiction of this Committee, we nevertheless conclude that the proposed action, despite its motivation, would be improper under the very authorities cited by the inquirer. We believe in this instance the attorney may properly only procure the quit claim deed to the lot in which his client is interested and that such quit claim deed should not run to the attorney. We suggest that it would be more appropriate for the deed to run to the ultimate grantee or other appropriate party.

Needless to say, as in many title problems presenting perennial problems to members of the title bar, it is perfectly legitimate to share information of the type procured by the inquirer. Ordinarily, such sharing is done on an informal basis among attorneys without particular reference to a fee, and we would not wish our opinion to be construed as precluding or inhibiting such sharing of information in this instance. Instead, our objection to the conduct is necessarily grounded in the taking of the deed by the attorney to lands possibly occupied by others in situations which would compel subsequent parties interested in the properties to seek his services, even on the nominal basis described. This, in our judgment, is clearly proscribed by Canon 28 and Additional Rule 19.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]