When "Jacqui" called his office earlier this week, Emmett McCall, Carbon County Recorder of Deeds, politely took the call, and he heard yet another story about how county residents are being led to believe they can receive a copy of their property record for a "processing fee."
"What a scam!" Jacqui replied when McCall explained to her the same information is obtainable at his office for less than five dollars.
"A number of county residents have been cautious enough to call our office prior to purchasing any of these copies, and that's a good thing," McCall said today about at least two different offers county residents have been receiving in the mail. "I feel like these companies are trying to mislead county residents," said the Recorder.
One mailed document – the one sent to Jacqui – asked $89 of her in order to obtain a record of her property. Another one - sent to LeRoy in Palmerton - seeks a "document fee" of $83.
Although he concedes the entities mailing these offers to county residents may be perfectly within their legal right, McCall said he will continue to do his best to inform county residents about the offers. "I personally have had a press release in the TIMES NEWS to try and make county residents aware of what is going on, but now, it seems, one company doing the mailing has continued to make these kind of mail offers, and yet another company is 'jumping on the bandwagon,'" McCall said.
In addition to trying to make residents aware the offers in their mailboxes being "not so good," McCall has forwarded his concerns to law enforcement authorities to take a look at the mailed literature. He said he has contacted the office of the county District Attorney Gary Dobias and also reached out to Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane to have officials in their offices take a look at the paperwork.
"The people need to know that what they are getting in the mail about copies of their deeds or property records has nothing to do with the county," McCall stressed.
The recorder said property owners generally do not need copies of their deeds, mainly because when a deed is recorded, the original document is returned to the attorney who files it, and that lawyer typically makes the document available to the property owner.
In addition, McCall said, "I'm not exactly sure of what we can do to eliminate this process. I have read over the documents being mailed to the people and the information on them pertaining to my office is incorrect. It's absurd for someone to be charged $83 or $89 for a record of their property. The most it would cost a resident to obtain the copy here is about $5 (depending on the number of pages)."
In the mailings, the offering agencies list addresses of Harrisburg and Wilmington, Del., and advise county residents they are not affiliated with the county in which a deed was filed, nor affiliated with any other government agencies."
McCall said the out-of-the-area addresses should serve as a reminder to residents that their records are held locally, not in Harrisburg, nor out of state.
"While we cannot and will not comment on what appears to be a private enterprise, what we can do is our best to inform the public of services available to them from the Recorder's office," McCall said.
The Recorder's office is responsible for the preservation of records relating to real property in the county. By law, the recorder is the keeper of permanent records of all property, for which he is required to record and affix his seal on all deeds executed, mortgages, subdivision plans and other records of property ownership.
The office also is the guardian of records of agreements of sale, plot developments, property options, leases, rights of way, easement agreements and charters of nonprofit organizations.
McCall said he wants residents to know the documents filed in the Recorder's office are public records that are available to anyone upon request at a nominal fee.
The Recorder's office is located on the first floor of the Carbon County Courthouse Annex in Jim Thorpe. It can be reached by telephone at (570) 325-2651.