Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a lawsuit today against a company accused of using government-like mailings to offer copies of property deeds for exorbitant fees.
Illinois Deed Provider Inc. also doing business as National Record Service Inc. and National Deed Service Inc. sent mailers to property owners offering certified copies of deeds for $59.50 and an additional copy for $20. Property deeds – which are usually one to two pages – are public records and county recorders can provide copies for free or at a nominal cost, often times a $1 per page.
“The solicitations mimic government legal documents which mislead consumers into believing they need a copy of their property deed,” Zoeller said. “Homeowners are not required to have copies even when they go to sell a property and they can obtain these documents from their county recorder’s office at little or no cost.”
According to the lawsuit, filed in Allen County Superior Court, the company’s notices contained the property owner’s name, address, property deed document number and county recorder’s information. Interested persons would fill out the form and return it with a check, money order or credit card information. Zoeller said this is the first lawsuit his office has filed against this type of business.
Some of the company’s mailers claim, “The U.S. Government Federal Citizen Information Center website recommends that property owners should have an official or certified copy of their deed.” According to the lawsuit, the federal website does not contain such information and the federal government actually warns consumers of companies offering to sell you a certified copy of your deed.
The state alleges the company violated the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the Deceptive Commercial Solicitation Act. Zoeller’s office seeks an injunction, consumer restitution, civil penalties and investigative costs.
“Hoosiers have enough to consider when they purchase a home. In the midst of a flurry of paperwork and expensive decisions, this official-sounding solicitation arrives, seeming like yet another thing a buyer is required to do,” said Allen County Recorder John McGauley. “Recorders across Indiana have long felt the National Deed Service offer is exorbitant and misleading. We thank Attorney General Zoeller for the opportunity to settle the question once and for all.”
The Attorney General’s office also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the company, which would prohibit it from sending these notices to consumers pending a final judgment by the court. Zoeller thanked county recorders who assisted in the investigation and those who voiced their concerns regarding these types of services.
If you have any doubts about a mailing offering a government-provided service, contact the entity directly to confirm the solicitation’s legitimacy. If you have received a notice or paid for this service, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office by visiting Indiana Consumer or requesting a complaint form be mailed to you by calling 800-382-5516.