NC5 Uncovers 'Misleading' Deed Solicitation
If you own property, you may soon get an offer in the mail to purchase a copy of your deed.
But a NewsChannel 5 investigation is now prompting local officials to warn homeowners about this offer and the company behind it.
"‘If you don't already have this important document, you may obtain one now,'" said Nancy Robertson, reading from a letter she received.
It came from Illinois-based National Deed Service. The company is sending out letters urging homeowners to pay $59.50 for a certified copy of their deed.
But NewsChannel 5 Investigates found you probably need a copy of your own deed about as much as you need a deed from a game of Monopoly.
"A lot of people who really couldn't afford $59.50 might think this was a necessity," Robertson said.
Robertson of Bellevue admits she wasn't sure what to do when she got one of those letters recently.
"It sounds so much like a government thing," she said.
Metro's Register of Deeds Bill Garrett agrees.
"It's pretty misleading," he said.
He believes the letter gives people the wrong idea.
"It makes people think that they really have to have a copy of their deed with them at home when they really don't," he said.
He said the average homeowner does not need a copy of their deed. Those records are kept in the Register of Deeds office.
But if someone needs a copy, Garrett said, they do not need to spend nearly $60 to get one.
"There's no need in spending this kind of money for this type of service," he said.
Particularly of the same information can be obtained for just $2.
"It's unethical," Garrett said.
But the National Deed Service insists that what people are paying for is convenience. It repeatedly claims on its Web site that getting copies of a deed is "not an easy process." It is one, the company said, that can take a long time, multiple trips to the register's office and can cost more than $20 a day for parking alone.
"We provide a lot better service than that," Garrett said.
NewsChannel 5 found that he was right.
NewsChannel 5 found that parking wasn't a problem across the street from the Sommet Center. Once inside the register's office, getting a copy of a deed took just minutes. NewsChannel 5 discovered that a deed could be ordered by phone to save a trip.
"It's ridiculous," Garrett said.
After NewsChannel 5 talked with Garrett about what the National Deed Service was doing, he decided to warn homeowners on his Metro Web site.
But this is not the first time consumers have been warned about this company.
The National Deed Service and its affiliates have run into trouble in at least three states. In Indiana and North Carolina, the attorneys general issued warnings to consumers. In Florida, the National Deed Service was accused of misleading advertising and was forced to pay the state $35,000.
"‘This document provides evidence that your property was transferred to you,'" Robertson read from the letter.
She said she didn't respond to the offer. She didn't keep it.
"I went in and showed my husband and said, ‘I think this is a scam and he said, ‘Yeah, throw it in the trash,'" she said.
She said she hopes others will do the same rather than throw away good money.
The Register of Deeds office received a request from the National Deed Service asking for copies of 48 deeds. That is 48 homeowners who spent $60 for something they could have gotten for $2.
NewsChannel 5 sent $59.50 more than a month ago to the National Deed Service for a copy of the same deed. It never arrived. According to the company's Web site, it can take at least a month. No one has responded to repeated phone calls and messages made by NewsChannel 5.