State law takes aim at public record solicitors
A new state law is taking aim at solicitors charging high fees for public records.
The law relates to solicitation of fees by a business or individual for a public record.
Act 247 requires nongovernment agencies to specify there is no requirement to purchase a public record or deed from them, list what government agency does provide that record and include the pricing of that government agency. The legislation puts specific parameters on solicitations companies can send consumers.
Over the past few years there has been a significant increase in deed processing schemes targeting new and existing homeowners, according to Wahner. Homeowners receive official looking notices recommending they obtain a deed and property profile to their home in order to confirm ownership in the property for a fee that is anywhere between $60 to $90. Although the practice is legal, it is certainly unethical to use strong language and insinuations to lead customers to believe they must pay a large sum to get copies of their documents, when in reality it costs just a few dollars.
“The property profile and deed are already public information in her office and you can stop by anytime to take a look for free,” Wahner said.
Most homeowners should have received the original deed when they purchased their property. If not, they can obtain a copy through the Register of Deed’s office for a minimal fee of $2 or $3 depending on the number of pages. State law determines the fees.
“These scamming companies are taking advantage of Wisconsin consumers during one of the most important purchases of their lives,” Wahner said. “Often these solicitations are so official looking that overwhelmed new homeowners will pay the fee without realizing it is not required. This law maps out certain requirements so these letters are more easily identified as unnecessary. Your Douglas County records are available immediately at the Register of Deeds Office at a fraction of the cost.”
The same situation is occurring with companies wanting to assist consumers in obtaining copies of their birth certificates. Companies have the consumer fill out the standard state vital records request form and then charge the standard state fees of $20 plus an additional $69 “service” fee.
Wahner said the Register of Deeds office does not send out solicitations for real estate or vital records. If you ever receive a letter offering to assist you in obtaining copies of your real estate records or birth certificate, stop by our office or give us a call and we will be glad to help.”
If you would like more information, contact the Douglas County Register of Deeds office at 715-395-7350.