The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is studying a proposal to adopt the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA).
House Bill 2618, introduced by Rep. Mark Longietti (D-7), was referred to the Committee on Local Government on June 10.
URPERA was promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in 2004. URPERA does three simple things:
- Equates electronic documents and electronic signatures to original paper documents and manual signatures, so that any requirement for originality (paper document or manual signature) is satisfied by an electronic document and signature
- Establishes what standards a recording office must follow and what it must do to make electronic recording effective
- Establishes a board to set statewide standards and requires it to set uniform standards that must be implemented in every office
The uniform act serves a number of important purposes: as URPERA becomes enacted across the country, it provides certainty to lenders, title companies and recorders regarding electronic transactions. This is particularly helpful for lenders and title companies who complete transactions in multiple jurisdictions or states by assuring that these companies can complete transactions in a similar manner within the same legal framework and set of technological standards.
“We certainly have no objections to Pennsylvania adopting URPERA,” said Marc Aronson, President of PAN. “We’re looking forward to working with all of the Pennsylvania recorders of deeds and serving on the committee if the bill passes.”
Raymond Pepe, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Uniform Law Commission and a lawyer with K&L Gates in Harrisburg thinks the bill will bring consistency to recording documents in the Commonwealth.
“This bill will create a system of uniform standards for all 67 counties in Pennsylvania,” Pepe said. “This will make the law clear, clean and consistent throughout the Commonwealth.”
Pepe is not advocating adoption of the URPERA on behalf of any clients of K&L Gates, but solely in his capacity as a state appointee to the Uniform Law Commission (ULC).
Kieran Marion, who is staff legislative counsel to the ULC, says the Pennsylvania URPERA takes electronic recording to another level.
“URPERA deals with the whole recording process,” Marion said. “There are some differences, but as a start the bill looks really good.”
Twenty states-Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin-have adopted URPERA.
In addition to Pennsylvania, URPERA is under consideration in four other states:Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.
“While we know it’s late in the current legislative session, we hope the local government committee will give careful consideration to the bill,” Pepe said. “It is an important act that will help facilitate more efficient land conveyancing in Pennsylvania.”
URPERA, where enacted, overrides individual state laws that require that the document presented for recording is an original document or a paper document. URPERA also supersedes laws that require that the signature on the document be handwritten in ink.
URPERA does not require land records officials to accept electronic documents. The decision to accept electronic documents for recording is up to the individual recorder or the individual state.
URPERA requires the establishment of an oversight committee to implement the act and adopt standards regarding the receipt, recording and retrieval of electronic documents. A state may develop an electronic recording commission or a state may opt to assign the duties of regulating electronic recording to an existing state agency. HB2618 proposes that the committee be comprised of 13 members. The President pro tempore and Minority Leader of the Senate would each appoint two members. The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Minority Leader of the House would appoint two members. The appointing authorities would each appoint one sitting recorder in any county of the first class through fourth class and one sitting recorder in fifth through eighth class. The Governor would appoint five members to the commission, one from each of the following entities:
- The County Records Committee
- The Pennsylvania Association of Notaries
- The Pennsylvania Bankers Association
- The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
- The Pennsylvania Land Title Association
The appointee from the county records committee would serve as commission chairman.
NCCUSL was founded in 1892 to promote uniformity in state law on all subjects where uniformity is desirable and practicable. The commissioners draft proposals for uniform model laws and work toward their enactment in legislatures. Since its organization, NCCUSL has drafted over 200 uniform laws, many of which have been widely enacted.
The organization, now in its 116th year, comprises more than 300 lawyers, judges and law professors appointed by the states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. All commissioners are members of the bar. While the usual term is three years, it is common for governors to reappoint active commissioners without regard to political affiliation. State appropriations provide for NCCUSL’s expenses. However, commissioners are not compensated for the considerable amount of time and expertise they contribute to the work of the organization.