Butler County Recorder Danny Crank is praising state lawmakers for targeting a long-standing “deed scam” that has plagued the county, mainly older residents, for years.
Both chambers of the state legislature have passed a law aimed at putting companies that try to sell expensive copies of deeds out of business. These are companies that send letters to homeowners saying they can obtain a copy of their deed for around $90, a document available in the recorder’s office for 15 cents a page, or $2 a page if his staff has to really dig for a document. The crux of the legislation involves limiting the price companies can charge to four times what the recorder’s offices charge.
“Hopefully it’s not going to happen anymore,” Crank said. “They (notices from the deed companies) are going out around the county, but I don’t think that’s going to happen because it’s not going to be a money-maker for them anymore.”
There are several companies sending letters to people throughout the state. Crank’s office provided this news organization with samples from the Local Records Office and Property Profile, Inc. The profile company sent a notice to a homeowner in Piqua last September asking for $86. An operator at Property Profile said the company don’t charge for deeds.
“We provide a property report that’s about 30 pages of information on the property,” the operator said. “That’s what the fee is for, the deed is free.”
Denise Goll, chief deputy recorder, said the company appears to be trying to skirt the legislation awaiting the governor’s signature.
“Providing a complimentary deed and property assessment for $86 is absurd,” she said. “This assessment information is free on the county auditor’s website and the cost to receive a copy of a deed at the recorder’s office is usually less than the cost to plug the parking meter.”
Crank said these solicitations harm older residents because they believe they absolutely need a copy of their deed — he said they don’t since he has them on file — and the solicitations from these companies used to appear like they were from a governmental entity, so they felt they needed to act.
However, Michigan previously passed a law that requires a disclaimer letting people know the government isn’t involved in the solicitation. Ohio’s new law has the same requirement.
One company that now appears to be out of the deed business promoted the ability to avoid dealing with the government. .
“It is not an easy process to obtain public records from a governmental agency. It often requires people to travel to the recorder’s office, lose time from work and pay, locate the proper office, deal with the people at the office, and locate their document and wait for the document to be produced,” a post on the still-active National Deed Service website reads. “Sometimes, the process will take two trips, and in some cities the cost of parking alone could be $20 plus each day. This is not an easy process. When considering all of the above, the service provided by National Deed Service, Inc. is a cost and time effective service.”
Local Records Office declined to comment on the new law.