Philadelphia Records Commissioner Joan Decker held a meeting on Friday, Oct. 17, in Conversation Hall, Philadelphia City Hall to review the new city council legislation affecting the Records Department that became effective on Nov. 3.
Decker emphasized to the audience comprised of title company employees and attorneys that this ordinance “only applies to documents recorded in Philadelphia County. This law does not apply in surrounding counties.”
The new ordinance provides that prior to the recording of any deed, a check of record ownership must be conducted by the Department of Records, and the record owner must be notified within 30 days of the recording of any deed.
In addition, if the grantor involves a trust, a last will and testament, a corporation or a power of attorney, then the proper documentation must be submitted with the deed.
If the deed is sent through the U.S. Post Office, it must be sent by certified or registered mail.
The Records Department’s evaluation staff will review the deeds to make sure the proper process is being followed. If there is a flaw, the document will be flagged and it will be routed to law enforcement for review.
There are certain exceptions to the new ordinance. Lawyers and title insurance companies can submit an affidavit to the records office for each deed recorded. The form is available online at www.phila.gov/records. The individual attesting to the fact that the submitter is an attorney or a title insurance company should sign the affidavit. The Records Department has interpreted the exemption to title insurance companies as including those who are acting in their capacity as licensed agents for a title insurance company when a title insurance product is issued. However, if the abstractor/closer is only providing closing services and is not working as an agent of a title insurance company, then the filing would need to comply with all of the new requirements.
In addition, the Records Department has indicated that submitters who are electronically recording only have to submit the affidavit once. Submitters who are not recording electronically must submit the affidavit with every deed if the deed is exempt.
“Unfortunately, real estate fraud is a growing problem in Philadelphia,” Decker said. “This process will allow the city to combat crime and gives property owners an opportunity to take corrective action.”