A new state law seeks to protect homeowners from deed-processing schemes.
Over the past several years an increasing number of homeowners have received official looking notices recommending they obtain a deed and property profile to their home.
Businesses offer this service for a fee that ranges from $60 to $90.
“Although the practice is legal, it is certainly unethical to use strong language and insinuations to lead customers to believe they must pay a large sum to get copies of their documents, when in reality it costs just a few dollars,” according to Waupaca County Register of Deeds Michael Mazemke.
Authored by state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, the new law requires non-government agencies to specify there is no requirement to purchase a public record or deed from them.
Their solicitation must also list what government agency does provide the record, and include the pricing of that government agency.
Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation on April 8.
“The property profile and deed are already public information in our office and you can stop by anytime to take a look for free,” Mazemke said.
Most homeowners should have received the original deed when they purchased their property. If not, they can obtain a copy through the county register of deed’s office for a fee of $2 or $3 depending on the number of pages.
“These scamming companies are taking advantage of Wisconsin consumers during one of the most important purchases of their lives,” Mazemke said. “Often these solicitations are so official looking that overwhelmed new homeowners will pay the fee without realizing it is not required. This law maps out certain requirements so these letters are more easily identified as unnecessary.”
Mazemke said Waupaca County records are available immediately at the register of deeds Office at a fraction of the cost.
Probably the hardest story on this particular legislation involved a young lady from with some physical challenges who recently bought a home,” Mazemke said. “She came to our office with the form letter and said she sent in money but didn’t receive her deed. I felt horrible that she did it, but it really made me angry that she didn’t receive anything so she sent the money a second time. I begged her to call the bank and stop payment on her checks but she explained it was her fault for not reading the letter completely very disappointing.”
The same situation is also occurring from companies wanting to assist consumers in obtaining copies of their birth certificate. Companies have the consumer fill out the standard state vital records request form and then charge the standard state fees of $20 plus an additional $69 service fee.
“The Register of Deeds office does not send out solicitations for real estate or vital records. If you ever receive a letter offering to assist you in obtaining copies of your real estate records or birth certificate, please stop by our office or give us a call and we will be glad to help,” Mazemke said.
For more information, contact Mazemke at 715-258-6250 or Michael.Mazemke@co.waupaca.wi.us