Language Translation, and Validity of Real Estate Transactions Conducted in a Foreign Language

We’ve already blogged about foreign language translations in the context of reverse mortgage loans. But when it comes to foreign language translation in the context of real estate transactions, it helps to remember that there are two basic steps in conducting a valid real estate transaction – creating a valid deed and properly filing the deed. More so, each step may be affected when a foreign language real estate deed is involved.

Since a real estate transaction is essentially a contract for the buying and selling of real property, a real estate deed or mortgage written in a foreign language is valid, as long as both parties understand and accept the foreign language terms. If, however, one party speaks English and another a foreign language, than a foreign language translation will be required.

As to the second requirement, a foreign language real estate deed filed without a foreign language translation will not impart constructive notice. This fact has the potential of creating future problems in terms of enforceability of the deed and tracing a valid chain of title. In general, all recorded deeds must be in English. In other words, all foreign language real estate deeds should have a foreign language translation attached to the original document, with both the original and translation being filed, recorded and made part of the public record.

See, for example, Galaty, Fillmore W, Allaway, Wellington J, and Robert C. Kyle. Modern Real Estate Practice in Ohio. Dearborn: 2001.

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