VONORE (WATE) – Some homeowners in East Tennessee and across the country are receiving letters that demand as much as $89 for a copy of a deed.
In March, Alma Lafever received the official-looking letter from a company called “Local Records Office” based in Nashville. The letter said she needed a copy of her deed to identify her as the property owner.
It also asked for an $89 processing fee for the document. LaFever said she didn’t’ want to lose her property, so she wrote a check to a Post Office Box in Nashville.
“I was afraid someone was going to foreclose on my property or maybe auction my property off,” said LaFever. “I was wondering about it, so I thought, well, I’ll send them the money.”
LaFever said she received a second letter from the company to her other house. This time the letter asked for the check to be sent to Corona, California. WATE 6 On Your Side found both addresses are for UPS stores in California and Nashville.
Millie Estes, the Register of Deeds in Monroe County said the attorney general’s office is investigating the letter. The business is apparently sending letters to people who have recently recorded information at their county register of deeds office.
At the bottom of the letter is a disclaimer notice that reads, “local records office is not affiliate with the county in which your deed is filed in, nor affiliated with any government agencies.”
Estes said the company is protecting themselves with the fine print and counting on the fact that nobody will read the fine print and people will think it is a letter from a government agency. Every county in Tennessee has a register of deeds office where documents like warranties of deeds and a trust of deeds are stored. Estes said in Monroe County said they give copies of house deeds at no charge.
“It’s just a scam.” said Estes. We will give them copies of any of the deeds they need, no charge, but they’re writing this letter saying send me $89 and we’ll mail you a copy of the deed.”
The Better Business Bureau gave the company an “F” rating after complaints that consumers felt misled because the document appears to be an official notice urging the customer to respond by a certain date. Local Records Office makes it clear in their letter that they are providing a service like any other service and that it is optional to pay the fee or disregard the letter. So in that sense, there is nothing illegal about their solicitation.
The company is one of multiple companies that have attempted this gimmick.