A company that’s charging $60 to $90 to provide certified copies of deeds to homeowners in 14 states has prompted some local officials to issue public notices saying they can provide the documents for less.
National Deed Service Inc. and several affiliated companies are sending direct-mail solicitations to homeowners. The solicitations reference a government Web site that advises property owners to keep a certified copy of their deed for their records.
In many counties where National Deed Service has sent its solicitations, a similar process has unfolded: Homeowners who receive the letters go to the county clerk or recorder and ask if the offer is legitimate. County officials publish notices informing the public that they provide the same service at a lower rate, which are picked up by local news media.
The Clark County, Nev., Recorder’s Office advised the public in November that the $69.50 charge that National Deed Service advertised for its services there were “not illegal, but are significantly more than what a property owner would pay if requesting a copy directly from the Recorder’s Office.”
Clark County Charges $1 per page for a deed, plus $4 to certify documents, and provides the service in person or through the mail.
Last week, Indiana officials offered homeowners similar advice, in response to National Deed Service mailers offering to provide certified copies of deeds for $59.50, the Associated Press reported.
In Peoria County, Ill., the company was charging $89.50, compared with the $39 fee assessed by the county, the Peoria Journal Star reported.
Local officials in other states, including Georgia, Florida and New Jersey, have reportedly warned homeowners that they should already have been provided with a copy of their deed when they closed on their home or mortgage. If not, they are told, they may obtain one for considerably less directly from their local record-keepers.
National Deed Service owner Barry J. Isaacson confirmed that the company has made similar offers in 14 states, but told Inman News he provides a legitimate service to those who are willing to pay for convenience. Videos can be checked out at libraries for free, he said, but people still go to Blockbuster to rent them because the library has shorter hours and fewer locations.
“People can cut their own hair if they want to, but they go to a barber,” Isaacson said.
He said procedures for obtaining records vary from county to county, and some make it harder than others. National Deed Service sets its fees according to its costs, which can include sending researchers to county recorders’ offices.
Although some news accounts have referred to the offer as a scam, Isaacson said he is running a business with overhead and marketing expenses that provides a service for the price advertised. National Deed Service provides copies of deeds within 30 days of receiving orders, he said.
“What they’re not understanding is we’re a service,” Isaacson said. “People say we’re a scam. A scam is when you tell people you’re going to do something, and you don’t do it.”
The company’s Web site says obtaining public records from a governmental agency “is not an easy process,” often requiring travel and lost time from work.
“Sometimes, the process will take two trips, and in some cities the cost of parking alone could be $20 plus each day,” the site maintains.
Isaacson said there’s nothing deceptive about his mailers, which state the company is not affiliated with any governmental agency, and that “many government records are available free or at a nominal cost from government agencies.”
Although National Deed Service’s address is listed in the mailers as Washington D.C., — in a building that’s a few blocks away from the White House — Isaacson did not dispute that the address is actually a “virtual office” that can be rented for $214 a month.
The company is registered in Northbrook, Ill., where Isaacson is a licensed real estate broker.
Isaacson said that he started out providing copies of deeds to Illinois residents in 2001. When he decided to expand the service to other states, he chose a company name and a Washington, D.C., address to indicate “a national presence,” Isaacson said.
Other names under which National Deed Service is doing business include California Record Retrieval Inc., Illinois Deed Provider Inc., Nevada Deed Provider Inc. and Florida Record Retrieval.