Boone County Recorder Bettie Johnson has a question for homeowners: Why pay nearly $60 for a copy of your deed when you can get it for $3?
The National Deed Service, a private, Washington, D.C.-based record retrieval company, offers location and delivery of certified copies of deeds to property owners for $59.50.
Johnson, however, said people can buy copies of their deed from the recorder’s office directly for $2 or $3.
Johnson said the issue was brought to her attention at the Recorders’ Association of Missouri meeting at the end of April after the company mailed offers to residents around Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield.
The company sends letters to homeowners, telling them the federal government recommends they have copies of their deeds, then offering to provide them.
“I have not had anyone contact me or my staff that they had received letters, but it’s something we want the public to be aware of,” Johnson said.
Jackson County Recorder Bob Kelly said he had received 15 to 20 inquiries from the public about the letters, in addition to dozens of deed requests from the company.
“What scares everyone is the part that says the federal government recommends that they have a copy of their deed,” Kelly said. “They don’t remember if they have it, and they panic.” He added that most homeowners already have copies of their deed from when they bought their property.
“I don’t have a problem with companies providing services so people don’t have to drive to the courthouse, but how they phrase it is misleading,” said Kelly, who said he is concerned about people on fixed incomes and the elderly taking advantage of the offer.
National Deed Service founder Barry Isaacson said his company is anything but misleading. Its letter states that the company is not affiliated with government agencies and that deed records are available locally for free or at a low cost.
“We’re providing a service to people who don’t want to take the time, energy and effort to deal with government offices,” Isaacson said. “A scam is when you tell people you’ll do something and you don’t. People request their deed, and we provide it.”
The attorney general’s office has received around 35 complaints about the letters, spokesman John Fougere said, but he added that because there are no damages or monetary losses, there are no grounds for an investigation.
“Consumers are smart enough to know that they can get this themselves for significantly less by getting in touch with their local recorder,” he said.