Arizona First State to Enact Important New Law That Allows the Electronic Filing of Real Estate Records
April 27, 2005
Arizona has recently become the first state in the country to enact the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA), an important new act which gives county clerks and recorders the legal authority to begin accepting and storing real property records, including mortgages, in electronic form. URPERA, introduced as SB 1354, was signed into law by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano on April 18. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2006. URPERA was drafted and approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in 2004.
“The objective of the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act is cheaper and faster real estate sales,” says John McCabe, NCCUSL’s Legislative Director.
In the past few years, many local real estate recorders have developed a strong interest in converting their traditional paper-based land recording systems to electronic form. A number of individual recorders have already set up digital systems, although in some cases without much clear legal authority to do so. In fact, most states have little or no legislation authorizing electronic recording. The few statutes that do exist are mostly piece-meal, dealing with isolated issues rather than taking a comprehensive view of the necessary legal developments.
With the adoption of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act by 48 states and the federal enactment of the Digital Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign), electronic records and signatures memorializing land sales contracts are now generally enforceable. Real estate transactions, however, are recorded in the local land records to provide a common system of notice and to establish the priority of various interests in the property. While efforts are underway in some states to set up electronic recording systems, these efforts depend upon a patchwork of authorizing statutes, pilot programs, and the individual initiative of local officials.
The Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act was drafted to provide a uniform and consistent framework for bringing recordation into the modern electronic era. The act authorizes, but does not require, the receipt, recording and retrieval of documents and information in electronic form. Its fundamental principle is that requirements of state law describing or requiring that a document be an original, on paper or in writing, are satisfied by a document in electronic form. Furthermore, any requirement that the document contain a signature is satisfied by an electronic signature. The act also establishes a state electronic recording commission that is charged with adopting standards for the receipt, recording, and retrieval of electronic documents.
The goal of the uniform act is to create legislation authorizing land records officials to begin accepting records in electronic form, storing electronic records, and setting up systems for searching for and retrieving these land records. The intent is only to authorize such activities, not to mandate them.