Understanding the General Warranty Deed
Generally speaking, a deed is an instrument that conveys an interest in property. While not all deeds contain warranty language, certain warranties are implied in almost every deed. The Texas Property Code provides that any time the words "grant" or "convey" are used in a deed, the grantor (seller) promises 1) that the grantor has not transferred any part of the property to anyone else, and 2) that the property is free from encumbrances (Section 5.023).
The implied warranties are made only to the grantee (buyer) in the deed. That is, they are not attached to the land. Only the immediate buyer may sue the grantor if the warranties are breached.
Express warranties are stated specifically in a deed. They are similar to implied warranties, but they give greater protection to the grantee and subsequent grantees, and they expose the grantor to greater liability.
A general warranty deed contains a warranty that looks like this:
And grantor hereby binds grantor, grantor's heirs, executors, and administrators to warrant and forever defend all and singular the said premises unto the said grantee, his heirs, and assigns, against every person whomsoever, lawfully claiming or to claim the same, or any part thereof.
What does this mean? It means that the seller is guaranteeing to compensate the buyer for any failure of title, all the way back to the time of the land patent from the sovereign. In Texas, that means the original grant from Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, or the State of Texas. Additionally, this warranty is appurtenant to the land, meaning that it is attached to the land and "runs with" the land. In other words, the seller's guarantee is made to the buyer and to all subsequent grantees, and includes all title defects, even if the seller had nothing to do with them and had no knowledge of them, and even if they originated over 180 years ago.
When a general warranty deed is given, the grantor promises that 1) the grantor will defend and protect the grantee against the rightful claims of third parties to the property (warranty of title), and 2) the property is free of encumbrances (covenant against encumbrances).
An encumbrance is any impediment to the title that does not change the ownership of the land, but that diminishes the value or use of the land. Examples include liens, tax assessments, leases, and easements.
Note the similarities and differences in the implied and express warranties. The implied warranty extends only to the immediate grantee and only says that the grantor has not previously conveyed the property to a third person. The express warranty goes much further. It extends to all subsequent grantees and covers every potential defect in the title.
A warranty does not strengthen or enlarge the title conveyed. It does not even guarantee that the grantor owns the property. It simply promises to compensate the grantee in the case of a failure of title.