Property owners beware: Scam for deed purchase

HARRISVILLE Alcona County property owners were notified by a Delaware company that they could purchase deeds to their property for $83.

But Alcona County Register of Deeds Karen Healy said Thursday the fee is “exorbitant.”

“In fact, they can get anything from us for a dollar a page,” said Healy, who works out of the county courthouse

A one-page certified deed is $2, she said. Or residents can order a copy from an online service and print it out at home for $1.20.

Healy said 15 residents contacted her office last week after they received official looking legal-size letters and return envelopes from Property Transfer Services. An Internet check of the company name indicated it was based in Delaware. However, the return envelope listed an address in a western state.

Healy investigated the offer, concerned county recipients might think they owed the government money. When she called the company’s 800 number posing just as a property owner, Healy said she was told they would simply get a copy of her deed from her county-which is the department she heads.

There was no explanation for the company’s markup, although Healy said the letters advised recipients they also could get a copy from their county clerk.

In Alcona County, deeds are handled by the register, she said.

Healy said property owners occasionally need a copy of a deed when dealing with an attorney or making plans for an estate.

“If you don’t have that original you’re OK as long as the deed was recorded during the real estate transaction,” she said.

Normally, a copy is provided to a property buyer when the transaction is handled by a bank, title company or real estate agent.

Healy said the mailings were sent to Alcona County property owners who recorded real estate transactions in 2013.

“They’re not doing anything illegal,” she said. “It’s just that the fee they’re charging is exorbitant.”

Healy said she learned about the enterprise last fall when she was given a heads up by the Michigan Association of Registers of Deeds.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.