Beware: Local Records Office

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Beware: Local Records Office

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We often get calls from our clients regarding a notice from the Local Records Office.

In most cases, these clients had signed a new deed to transfer ownership of their home or signed a Transfer on Death Designation Affidavit to name a beneficiary of their home. After the document is signed, our office records the document in the county recorder’s office, and we mail the original recorded document to the client after we get it back.

The letter from the Local Records office looks official and contains detailed information about the property. The letter has a payment slip with instructions to detach the slip and return it, along with $89, to “get a copy of the document that identifies you as the owner of your property.”

Despite a disclaimer on the letter stating that the Local Records Office is not associated with any governmental agency, many of our clients are alarmed by receiving the notice and think they are required to submit the $89 to get the copy of their deed or affidavit. Even though the letter says that you can obtain a copy of your deed or other record from the county recorder in the county where the property is located, it looks official and can trick many people into paying $89 for a document that is a public record. In most cases, the client has the original document in their possession.

The address on the letters we have seen is the address for a UPS store on N. High Street in Columbus. The “Local Records Office” has a PO box at that location. The Better Business Bureau rates the Local Records Office as an “F” and gives an alert about the business.

In Ohio, land information is available to the public. Most county auditors have an online search function that lets you search for a property by owner name, address, or parcel number. The property page shows detailed information about the property – owner’s name, sales history, sales prices, tax information, residential and added building values, etc. This is the same information contained on the Local Records Office letter.

Recorded documents are also public records. Some Ohio recorders, including Franklin County, make images of recorded documents available online to download and print. For those that do not offer direct online access, anyone can request a copy of the deed or affidavit from the recorder for a nominal charge (for example, $2 per page).

Once a document is recorded by the landowner, he or she should receive it back from the Recorder’s office for no additional charge. Although it is a good idea to keep the recorded document some place safe, you should never pay $89 to a third party to obtain a copy of a recorded document. You can contact your attorney or directly contact the county recorder to obtain a copy of the document.