Friday, December 04, 2009

Address Confidentiality

A soon-to-be-homeowner called this week and asked that once she purchased her new home that her name be excluded from our website for confidentiality purposes. She had no problem with her information being in our records; she just didn’t want it on the internet. I explained that what appeared on our website was just a projection of our official database and that the two were essentially one and the same. As tactfully as possible I inquired as to the motives for her request. Someone who is the victim of a stalker, for instance, is in a much different position than someone who is just trying to be extremely cautious with sharing information about themselves.

Back in 2001, the state legislature established the Address Confidentiality Program and placed it under the supervision of the Secretary of State’s office. A document from that time states “The goal of the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) is to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking stay safe after they have relocated from an address known to their perpetrator.” In practice, someone participating in the program would be assigned a generic mailbox address in a government operated location. That address could be shared with the world and then any mail delivered to it would be confidentially delivered to the participants actual address. As for real estate ownership records, the committee agreed that it would be unrealistic and unworkable to try to exclude them from public view. The consensus was that anyone concerned about keeping their ownership of real estate out of the public eye should instead use a trust arrangement whereby someone else – an attorney, for example – would serve as trustee of a trust that owned the real estate. By proceeding this way, the participant in the confidentiality program would never have her name associated with the property.

As for my caller, I explained the trust option to her and urged her to consult with an attorney if she wished to pursue that further, although I cautioned her that the cost of such an ownership arrangement in both money and convenience, might not be worth the general goal she sought to achieve.

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