Beware of 'Legal Deed' Scammers

D.C.-based group offers 'certified' deed copies at hyper-inflated costs.

Published on: Jun 6, 2007

Mid-Atlantic property owners should be alert to one of the latest service offerings from a Washington, D.C.-based solicitor. They'll sell you a certified copy of the legal deed to your home or other property. But Cathy Bowen, Extension consumer educator at Penn State, suggests you may not need what these "helpful" people are selling.

"If you own property, chances are you have a copy of the deed in your home files, tucked away in a safe deposit box or stored some other place for safekeeping," says Bowen. "Some companies may peruse public records and offer to sell you a certified copy of your deed for a fee that's 10 to 15 times the actual cost."

The official record of your ownership appears in the register of deeds office in the county where the property is located. "You can get a copy of your deed for a nominal sum (e.g. $.50 per page) and have it certified for an additional small fee (e.g. $1.50).

Getting a copy of your deed is a do-it-yourself project that you can accomplish
in 10 minutes or less if you request a copy by mail. Why pay others a large fee to do something you can do yourself in a few minutes?

Deed recordings are public information and copies can be viewed and purchased by any person, not just the property owners. If you don't have a copy of the deed to your property, call your local county courthouse register of deeds office to get costs for the copy and certification.

In many counties, you may be able to order the deed by mail and receive a copy without going to the courthouse. To locate your register of deeds office, look under the county government listings in your local telephone book.