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OLTA Asks Ohio Supreme Court to Reject County’s Excessive Fees for Electronic Documents

June 30, 2011

The Ohio Land Title Association (OLTA) urged the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold the Public Records Act and preserve the public-private system of computer-enhanced property title assurance by rejecting Cuyahoga County’s excessive reproduction fees for electronic real estate records.

OLTA’s amicus brief, filed in Data Trace Information Services, LLC, et al. v. Recorder of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, argues that the $2 per page fee charged by the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office for electronic copies of public records is astronomical in comparison to the office’s actual cost.

According to the brief, since the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office went electronic 11 years ago, it charged $50 each day to provide digital images of all deeds, liens, mortgages and other instruments recorded in the county. This equated to roughly $1,100 for an average month’s data, given 22 business days per month. The county is now requiring a fee of $2 per page (or electronic image of a page). This averages out to more than $208,500 to obtain CD copies of two months’ worth of documents.

The brief argues this fee violates Ohio’s Public Records Act and that the dramatic rise in fees would result in higher fees passed on to clients for accessing and searching databases.

“These astronomical fees would essentially constitute a tax on real estate transactions that likely would prevent valuable transactions from event taking place,” OLTA said in its brief. “Recorders’ offices were created to facilitate commerce by providing access to documents so parties can check titles. By charging a price that will drive up the cost of transactions and drive businesses out of the market, the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office would undermine the very reason for its existence.”

ALTA’s position is that the cost to obtain a reproduction of a public record or document in any format should be the public record custodian’s actual out-of-pocket cost to produce the reproduction.

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