Court Order Signals an End to Illegal Recording Practices in Berks County
October 18, 2006
Pennsylvania Land Title Association
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. /PRNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Land Title Association (PLTA) and Ellie Antoine, the Berks County Recorder of Deeds have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against Antoine in November 2005. Senior Judge Edward G. Biester, Jr. of the Court of Common Pleas endorsed this settlement by the entry of a Mandamus Order setting forth the terms and conditions by which document recording and record keeping will henceforth occur in Berks County. By the agreed-upon Mandamus Order, Antoine is required to follow Pennsylvania law in the recording of documents, which is the chief function of her office.
PLTA filed an action against Antoine after its members suffered through countless incidents of illegal recording practices and only after negotiations failed to lead to true reform in the conduct of her office. The suit charged Antoine with multiple violations of Pennsylvania law including long recording delays, recording documents out of order and imposing arbitrary, burdensome and illegal recording requirements and fees. The suit sought to end these practices to bring Antoine's office in compliance with Pennsylvania law and to minimize the potential for loss being experienced by PLTA members and others involved in real estate transfers in the County.
"We are very pleased with the Mandamus Order, which will significantly improve the way in which Berks County documents are recorded," said Adrienne Verdone, President of PLTA. "Any backlog of documents in Berks County must be cleared up within two months, and the Recorder must take all action necessary to avoid any new backlogs, including hiring additional personnel if required." Verdone indicated that among other things, "The Mandamus Order removes an earlier prohibition imposed by the Recorder on the number of documents an individual can present for recording, and banned the various non-statutory requirements imposed by Antoine as a condition of recording. Now, Berks County must accept any document which complies with Pennsylvania law -- a major victory for all persons who engage in real estate transactions in Berks County."
Verdone added that "We hope Ms. Antoine will forge a new relationship with our Association, and that we can provide suggestions and assistance to her office on recording issues."
Edward J. Hayes of Fox Rothschild LLP, counsel for the PLTA in the Berks County matter, pointed out that the Court retained jurisdiction. "We are optimistic that the Mandamus Order will be fully complied with and that it will not be necessary to come back to Court for any enforcement proceedings. However, PLTA stands ready to follow up if things do not change."
The Pennsylvania Land Title Association represents the interests of more than 700 land title insurance agents, underwriters and members of affiliated professionals in law, real estate and financial services. Founded in 1921, PLTA is the third largest land title association in the United States. Among many issues which the PLTA monitors for its members, problems in Recorder's offices have been a major area of concern because those problems unnecessarily complicate the recording process. PLTA is closely watching several counties at this time, in the hope that they will come into compliance with the law without the need for the same mandamus litigation as filed here.