Companies seek to overcharge for deed copies

$89 buys $1 document
Jul. 19, 2013 @ 11:58 PM

Property owners in Sevier County have been getting correspondence from companies asking exorbitant prices for copies of deeds and other information, and Register of Deeds Sherry Huskey is putting out word that residents don’t have to pay so much to get it.

A copy that had been brought to Huskey came from a business calling itself the “Local Records Office,” operating out of Nashville. It offered to provide “a copy of the only document that identifies (the addressee) as the property owner,” along with information on schools in the area, property history and other information — for a fee of $89.

In Sevier County, people can usually get a copy of their deed for around $1, Huskey said. It might cost a little more than that to get a copy of a deed that’s longer than average, but it won’t be anywhere near $89, she said.

The letters include a disclaimer saying the service isn’t affiliated with a government agency, and that the owner isn’t under an obligation to pay the fee or obtain the information. A person who answered the phone number listed for the business said they are just offering a service, and acknowledged that the infomration they provide would be the same information they could people can get through their local officials.

“It’s the same thing,” she said. “If you want to go through the local office you can obtain it that way as well.”

Still, Huskey said she’s fielded questions from a number of people about them over the last few months, and she’s talked with registers in other counties where residents were confused by the letters. She said another business with a California address is sending similar letters in this area with a California address, but she didn’t have copies of those letters.

The letters appear to typically go to people who just bought new property, she noted. Because the transfers are public records, the companies would easily be able to get information such as lot size and assessed value, which are listed on the letters.

The companies aren’t breaking the law, she said, but they are charging more than people have to pay to get a deed through her office.

“We’ve checked and it’s not illegal, but it’s just a service they don’t have to pay that much for,” she said.

“There’s no reason anyone should pay $89 to get a copy of their deed,” she said.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com