Thursday, March 06, 2014

How Electronic Recording Affects the Pre-Recording Run Down

 The following question was posted as a comment to a recent blog post:

How does running the daily index work with electronic recordings? If I were standing in line waiting to record, how would I know if something had come on record affecting my property since the last time I had checked the index?

Here is my answer:

When you do a walk in recording, you first do a rundown at a public access computer and then get in line. While you're in line, if something containing the name of your grantor suddenly goes on record from any source (mail, another walk in, or electronic recording), a warning pops up on the recording screen when the clerk enters that same name from your document.  The clerk tells you about it and you either proceed or pull back the recording.  That system is not foolproof but that's the design and it seems to work pretty well.

When doing electronic recording, you do much the same thing, using our website (which is instantly updated with new recordings) to do your rundown and then pressing the “send” button on your electronic recording application.  That transmits the electronic recording to the registry where it is processed as quickly as possible.  A major difference between electronic and walk in recording is that with electronic recording, we currently don’t have the ability to communicate in real time with the person presenting the documents for recording.  While that “same name just entered” alert does function with electronic recording, since you’re not here for me to ask about it, our policy is to just proceed with the recording.  We considered automatically aborting any electronic recording any time the “same name” warning appeared but the reality is that 95% of the time that warning appears it’s something innocuous like a municipal lien certificate (the tax collector’s name triggers the alert) so automatically rejecting the transaction wouldn’t work.  Neither is us trying to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the “same name” thing should or should not cause the recording to be rejected.

In the beginning, this “rundown gap” was a major concern to us and to prospective users.  As we all gained experience with the system, we realized the initial concerns were overblown.  It’s still a risk but the harm is minimized by the customer doing a post-recording rundown before disbursing any funds (which is the recommended practice for any type of recording).  This is also an area in which technology may be of assistance.  Video conferencing is now widely available and inexpensive.  I have proposed establishing a video chat capability between the registry clerk handling the incoming electronic recording and the customer who submitted it.  Such a communications link would duplicate the walk in recording experience.  If we had questions about a recording, we could ask them of the customer in real time.  Similarly, if the customer had any special instructions, they could be shared with the clerk during the recording process.  Establishing this technology does not require replacement or our entire system or even an expensive upgrade.  All we would need is an iPad or similar device and a wireless connection to the internet (which we already have).

We began using electronic recording at Middlesex North in 2005 and have used it ever since with no difficulties worth mentioning.  Our volume has risen from 1,057 documents recorded electronically in 2005 to 25,251 recorded electronically in 2013 which accounted for 38% of all recordings that year.  It is a proven technology that works well and is a huge efficiency for the registry of deeds and for the users. 

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