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Public Records Issues

Public Records Issues

Welcome!

Welcome to ALTA®'s Public Records Issues page. This page is hosted by the ALTA® Real Property Records Committee and designed to serve as a clearinghouse for information on access to public records. Click here or scroll down to search and read posted stories.

Access To Public Records Is Crucial To Your Success

Changes to the way title professionals access public records can make it harder or easier to do business and we hope you will take a moment to share what's happening in your market. More and more, changes to the accessibility of public records aren't just local issues. Topics like redaction and electronic access cross county and state lines. States often look to their neighbors for legislative and regulatory precedent, so it's important to know what's happening across the country.

What's Happening In Your Market?

If you know of current legislation, regulation, or business practices in your market that impact your ability to access the public records, click here to submit your story. Contact publicrecords@alta.org with questions or concerns.



Public Records Issues Posted Stories

All of the stories that have been approved and posted appear below, in reverse chronological order. You can use the search tools to pinpoint the stories that you want to read.

Posted: 3/27/2009
Source: David Floyd, SKLD Information Services, Denver, CO
State(s): CO
A bill has been introduced that makes it unlawful for a person TO knowingly to make available on the internet personal information about a LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL, if the dissemination of the personal information poses an imminent and serious threat to the LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL'S safety or the safety of the LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL'S immediate family and the person making the information available on the internet knows or reasonably should know of the imminent and serious threat"

It is colorado House Bill 1316 a link of which is below.

http://www.leg.state.co.us/Clics/CLICS2009A/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/44EE4D5921D1B7248725757400783E91?Open&file=1316_01.pdf

This bill was in repsonse to the murder of a local county DA in from of his house. The murder has not been solved nor has there been any evidence released that points to the public records as being a source of information.

It is my understanding that section 2 of the bill will be struck, leaving only section 1.

Posted: 1/16/2008
Source: Yianni Pantis, First American, Sacramento, CA
State(s): VA
Virginia SB 133 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?081+ful+SB133) and HB 633 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?081+ful+HB633) were introduced on January 9, 2008 and seek to amend Section D of § 59.1-443.2 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+59.1-443.2) dealing with communication/display of social security numbers. More particularly, SB 133/HB 633 would eliminate the current public records exception (deletions indicated by brackets, additions indicated by caps):

* * * A. Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, a person shall not: 1. Intentionally communicate [an] ANOTHER individual's social security number to the general public; . . . D. This section shall not apply to [(i)] public bodies as defined in § 2.2-3701 [or (ii) records required by law to be open to the public, and shall not be construed to limit access to records pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.).] * * *

This could have unintended negative consequences for the title industry given that land records may sporadically contain SSNs.

Posted: 1/11/2008
Source: Jay Sibley, Title Data, Inc., Houston, TX
State(s): All States
Cleveland's News-Herald.com reports, in an Op/Ed article dated January 8, 2008, that Lake County, Ohio recorder Frank Suponcic wants Ohio's lawmakers to do something about bulk sales of public records. This is in response to an open records request by Property Insight for a copy of his land records back to 1995. Mr. Suponcic is cited as saying that it costs his office thousands of dollars to comply with Property Insight's request, but he's only allowed to collect $1 per CD, plus postage.

Posted: 11/7/2007
Source: James Sibley, Title Data, Inc., Houston, TX
State(s): All States
On October 13, 2007 California Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 1168, which deals with redaction of a part of the Social Security number from public records maintained by a county recorder. Highlights: 1) a document presented for filing cannot contain more than the "last four" of a person's SSN, but recorders are not required to examine and reject documents which don't comply, 2) to the extent funding is available, county recorders are required to establish a truncation program to redact the "first five" to create an electronic, "public copy" of the official record [back to 1980], and 3) recorders can collect $1.00 per newly filed document to pay for their truncation program.

Posted: 8/29/2007
Source: gloria miller, self, houston, TX
State(s): TX
I would like to comment on public records in Fort Bend County, Texas. I have had a trying experience researching our family's history utilizing the public records in Fort Bend County, Texas. Several things has occured during this process. Exposure of family's records were published online which contained sensitive information made available to the public. Our great-grandfather's probate record in connection with historical records were made public, this probate record was refiled in 2000, 70 years after his death. Was this information of our family's records and great- grandfather's probate published in a false light? Was there a publication of the will that was inccorrect? Why was this will refiled 70 years after his death and made accessible to the public? Were their properties that needed to be distributed? No record of a death certificate could be found on his son who died in 1953. No death record recorded in the State of Texas on our great-grandfather who died in 1927 in Fort Bend County, Texas. What can be done legally if negligence was the case of these records being exposed to the public?

Posted: 7/18/2007
Source: Pamela A. Croke, Esq., CLTP, Pennsylvania Land Title Association, King of Prussia, PA
State(s): PA
The Pennsylvania State Senate is considering a bill (SB 777) that would allow towns and counties to contract the maintenance of public records to private enterprises. These private contractors would then control access to the records, setting both the charges to the public and conditions and times of access, with few limitations on their conduct. The Pennsylvania Land Title Association (PLTA)has been the leading force to challenge this proposed bill as a huge detriment to consumers and a danger to the sanctity of open, public records. Also at issue are changes to the procedures for upset sales, which changes are seen by PLTA as unconstitutional. PLTA has been working since April, 2007 with all parties who have an interest, to formulate a compromise bill. Efforts are aimed at achieving that compromise by August 1, 2007 for a bill to be voted on in September, 2007.

Posted: 5/25/2006
Source: James Sibley, Title Data, Inc., Houston, TX
State(s): All States
A 10-member committee has been appointed [the Committee on Land Parcel Database: A National Vision] to study the benefit of a single, national, digitized parcel map, to contain at a miniumum spatial boundaries, street addresses, and unique parcel identifiers. This project is being coordinated by the National Research Council, and is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Land Management, Federal Geographic Data Committee, Census Bureau, and ESRI. The committee held its third meeting May 23, 2006 in Washington, D.C., and expects to issue its report in February 2008. For more information go to http://dels.nas.edu/besr/msc_projects.php

Posted: 3/24/2006
Source: Larry Crooks, KASPARNET INC, Medina, OH
State(s): OH
Lorain County Ohio - Recorder removed all images from website this week.

Butler County Ohio -Recorder removing all images from website as of April 1, 2006.

Posted: 12/20/2005
Source: James P. Sibley, Title Data, Inc., Houston, TX
State(s): All States
The controversy over "bulk sales" of county clerk/recorder records is heating up. For a recent example involving the Fort Bend, Texas county clerk, please go to www.herald-coaster.com/articles/2005/12/12/news.

As the title insurance industry is one of the larger "bulk purchasers" of these records, it behooves us to educate our county officials as to why we need timely and cost-effective access to the county's real property records, before it's too late [i.e., restrictive legislation gets passed].

Posted: 12/19/2005
Source: James P. Sibley, Title Data, Inc., Houston, TX
State(s): TX
Texas Governor Perry signed into law 6/17/05 SB 1485, which adds Sec. 552.147 to the Texas Government Code [the Public Information Act]. This section relates to redaction of social security numbers from public records; as it is unclear whether or not redaction is mandatory or permissive, the Fort Bend County Attorney has requested an Attorney General Opinion [RQ-0418-GA]. The title insurance industry may wish to submit comments to the AG for this reason: if redaction is ruled mandatory, will a county clerk be able to delay releasing copies of real property records until redaction is complete, or will the county clerk still be subject to the timeliness requirements of the PIA [generally 10 business days].

Posted: 12/19/2005
Source: James P. Sibley, Title Data, Inc., Houston, TX
State(s): All States, OH
Recently the Ohio legislature considered a bill [SB 148] which would increase the cost for electronic copies of county recorder documents to $2.00/page [$1.00 copy charge plus $1.00 housing trust fund fee], the same fee a requestor pays today for paper copies. Since the title industry uses digital images of recorded real property documents to maintain its title plants, this bill would have dramatically increased the cost to maintain Ohio's title plants. Fortunately, I believe that consideration of this bill [or at least the portion raising the fee for non-paper copies] has been delayed until 2006. The title industry in Ohio [and elsewhere--what becomes law today in one state tends to be introduced tomorrow in other states] should continue to monitor such legislative attempts to deny the title insurance industry timely and cost- effective access to the public record copies we require in order to maintain our title plants.



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