What Do the Words 'Less and Except' Mean in a Warranty Deed?

Warranty deeds often contain clauses to limit the scope of the sale.
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A warranty deed is a type of legal contract in which the seller guarantees that she holds a clean and clear title to a piece of real estate property and that she has the right to sell it to the buyer. The term "less and except" often appears in a warranty deed to signify that a particular area of the real estate is not covered under the deed. In other words, that part of the property is excluded from the contract.

Simple Contracts vs. Deeds

A basic distinction between simple contracts and deeds must be made to understand the force behind a legal contract. Most contracts are simple contracts, which means they can be entered into orally, in writing or through action. Almost all contracts are simple, but some contracts are considered deeds. Deeds must be made in writing, signed, notarized and delivered in a sealed envelope. Contracts for real estate, marriage licenses and some financial instruments are made by deed.

Warranty Deed

A warranty deed is a particular kind of deed that applies to real estate. When a seller -- sometimes called a grantor -- wants to sell a piece of property, she must obtain a warranty deed to certify to the buyer -- sometimes called the grantee -- that she has the legal right to sell the property. The deed provides a warranty, or guarantee, that the property has a clear title and that the contract for sale is valid.

'Less and Except'

Sometimes a warranty deed will include the phrase "less and except." This term will precede a portion of the contract in which the seller describes the property that is not included in the transaction. For example, the warranty deed may read that "the grantee is purchasing plots No. 50 through 55 on Biscayne Boulevard less and except plot 52." This means plot 52 is not included in the sale because the seller either does not have a clear title to that portion of the property or because she is choosing not to sell it.

Ensuring Validity of Warranty Deed

While warranty deeds are legal instruments for ensuring that a seller has the right to sell the property in question, most buyers will still carry out a title search to determine that the warranty deed and any of its "less and except" clauses are accurate. The title search can also include an investigation to determine whether there are any defects with the real estate that need to be rectified or revealed to the seller before the purchase is complete. It is part of the seller's responsibility to notify the buyer of any encumbrances or problems with the property, but it is the buyer's responsibility to do her due diligence before signing the warranty deed.

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