Regular readers of these postings may remember a piece written by my colleague, Julie Cotant, on December 22, 2015, titled Scams Are Always in Season. In that piece, Julie talked about a “Recorded Deed Notice” that had been received by a client, offering to provide a copy of a newly recorded deed for a fee of $83. As Julie pointed out, the solicitation was a scam; copies of recorded deeds are available through the county register of deeds office for just a few dollars.
Apparently these scams have become so prevalent that they have attracted the attention of our State lawmakers, who recently passed the Michigan Solicitation of Deeds Act. Signed into law on April 13, 2016, it will take effect on July 12, 2016.
The Act specifies that any solicitation to provide a copy of a deed for a fee must adhere to the Act. The Act specifies that the solicitation must state at the top of the first page, in at least 24 point type, that the solicitation is not from a public body, that no action is legally required by the person being solicited, the actual statutory fee or cost of obtaining a copy of the deed from the public body that has custody of it (usually the county register of deeds office), the information necessary to contact that public body, and the name and physical address of the person soliciting the fee. Further, the solicitation may not state a deadline for compliance or contain any language that states or implies that the recipient is under a legal duty to respond. The charge for a copy of a deed cannot be more than four times the statutory fee charged for a copy by the public body that has custody of the deed, and the person or entity intending to solicit a fee for a copy of a deed must first provide the solicitation document they plan to use to the register of deeds office in each county where they plan to make solicitations. The Act empowers the Michigan Attorney General to promulgate rules concerning the content and form of the solicitation document and to investigate, file civil actions against suspected violators, seek to enjoin violations and ask the court to impose civil fines.
If you have received a solicitation offering the opportunity to obtain an “official” copy of a deed for a fee, you may wish to contact your county register of deeds office and/or the Consumer Protection Division of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at (877) 765-8388, or visit www.michigan.gov/ag to access on online complaint form. In any event, remember that the actual cost to obtain a copy of a recorded deed from your county register of deeds office is typically only a few dollars.