County Recorder Office Closures Due to COVID-19 Increase Risk for Title Fraud

April 28, 2020

The closure of many county recorder offices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and various stay-at-home orders is leading to a backlog of recordation and delays in finalizing property records.

Lisa Roessler, Black Knight’s vice president of Title Strategy and Business Development, explained that the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 have increased opportunities for those looking to commit real estate fraud.

“The unfortunate reality is that criminals seek out weaknesses to exploit in order to execute their schemes,” said Roessler. “Today, many county recorder offices have been forced to close for an indeterminate length of time in response to stay-at-home orders resulting from COVID-19. Sadly, this creates a sizeable opportunity for those who would seek to commit real estate fraud in the midst of this confusion. Any delay in the public recordation of a real estate transaction creates a period where multiple title orders—for multiple mortgages—can be initiated on a single property. If funds are transferred before this activity is detected, losses could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident.”

ALTA has created an online resource that tracks the operating status of recording jurisdictions across the country, including the status of e-recording and online searching. Visuals and counts are available by state, most populous counties, e-recording jurisdictions and more.

Multiple title orders opened on a single residential property signal a red flag for potential fraud. Multiple order completions could lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars per property.

Black Knight’s iOnTitle solution helps avoid fraudulent transactions from taking place while many county recorder offices remain closed in response to the pandemic. The solution monitors the chain of title on a property from when an order is initiated through the post-closing period. If another order is identified prior to close, title agents using Black Knight’s TitlePoint and iOnTitle are notified, helping to reduce the chance for fraud.

iOnTitle also tracks the title from when the mortgage has been funded and insured until it is recorded. The system informs clients know when delayed documents have been recorded, and can detect when re-conveyances are recorded, payoffs were made, and whether lien positions on new mortgages are properly identified as subordinate liens.

“iOnTitle is an important tool to help prevent fraud at any time,” Roessler said. “But today’s circumstances make the insight this solution provides more critical than ever. The conditions are ripe for fraudulent real estate activity, and title agents and those they serve must be armed to defend against such activity. When ‘blind’ closings are an ever-increasing possibility, it is crucial that title agents have a clear view into any orders placed on a property, before, at and beyond closing.”


Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

203545