Are documents pertaining to the ownership of a property public records? And if so how can I obtain these documents?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Are documents pertaining to the ownership of a property public records? And if so how can I obtain these documents?

I am co-owner of a small apartment
building with my father. The day we
signed all the paperwork such as the
mortgage and whatnot, my wife signed
something at the recommendation of my
father. We don’t know what it was. A few
months later I signed some other things
at the recommendation of my father,
again, not really knowing what it was. I
know my name is still on the mortgage as
I was paying it for a while. Fast
forward to today, things are not going
so great with the co-ownership. I really
just want to find out if my name is
still on the deed, what I’m entitled to
as far as tenants rent collection, and
what it was my wife was asked to sign.
Any advice or direction would be greatly
appreciated. Thank you very much.

Asked on January 8, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A deed must be filed to be effective, so you can go to the county clerk's office and look up the deed to the building, to see what it says. Whatever is on the filed deed goes. Deeds are therefore public.
There is no way to know what your wife signed *unless* it was a deed or amendment to the deed and was filed; non-filed documents will not be in public location or file. All you could do in this case would be to ask your wife or father about it.
Note that if you signed something, even "not really knowing what it was," you are bound to that. The law expects and requires you to read and understand what you sign; you are held to have understood whatever you signed. So if you did sign anything giving up any rights or ownership, you will be held to what you signed.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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