News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 16, 2013

‘Local Records Office’ solicitation misleading residents

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A private company calling itself “Local Records Office” is sending solicitations through the mail to area residents offering to provide documents that are often available at much lower prices – or at no charge – through government agencies or websites.

The Vigo County Recorder’s office has received several inquiries from residents who received the solicitations, which look like invoices but include disclaimers stating they are not.

“We’ve had 25 or 30 people come to the counter,” said Nancy Allsup, Vigo County Recorder. “They think we sent it out.”

The solicitations include information about the recipient’s home, such as assessed value and the property ID number. They also include a detachable coupon to be mailed back to an Indianapolis address for “Local Records Office” with a payment of $89.

The solicitations also state in bold letters Local Records Office is “not associated with any governmental agency.” They also state: “This is not a bill. This is a solicitation you are under no obligation to pay the amount stated, unless you accept this offer.”

The solicitations – again in bold letters – also include a “Please Respond By” date of March 1.

If you mail Local Records Office $89, the company, which has an Indianapolis address, will mail you a copy of the most recently recorded deed for your property and a property “history,” according to a customer service representative for the company who did not wish to give her name when contacted by the Tribune-Star on Thursday.

Allsup said people really only need a deed when they sell their property. And deeds are always on file at the Recorder’s office and can be provided for $1 per page plus $5 for certification, she said. Most deeds are one page in length, Allsup said.

In addition to a deed, Local Records Office provides a property “history,” the company representative told the Tribune-Star. A “history” includes “the property details, the transaction history, the comparables, the foreclosure activity, the neighbors’ information, the demographics, public school and private school rates, the crime report of your area, if there is any,” the company representative said.

From where does Local Records Office receive the information provided? “I actually don’t know where they get the information from,” she said.

The Vigo County government website, www.vigocounty.in.gov, through its GIS link, provides property details, such as structure measurements and past sales information, at no charge.

“The only benefit, I would say, is we’re more like a convenience,” the company representative said. “They can just go ahead and mail us the check and we mail them the information instead of them having to go down to their county [office] or to their title company if they have one,” she said.

Allsup said this sort of thing has come to the attention of the Recorder’s office in the past, only now the prices being charged by companies such as “Local Records Office” are higher. She worries that people — especially older people — will believe they are receiving a county bill or are required to have a copy of their deeds and pay the fee for the information and documentation.

“It’s happening all over,” Allsup said. Three or four different private companies are doing the same thing, she said.



Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com