LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Stop the Deed Verification Proposal

Philip Weiden | December 2018

Rockland County is proposing a $200 deed verification fee in order to better align the county tax maps to the deeds. HGAR strongly opposes imposition of this fee for several reasons. We understand the idea behind the proposal, but the remedy itself will not solve the problem.

The county claims it needs the fee due to some people misrepresenting properties they own and because many people supposedly do not know where their property lines begin and end.

Deeds can be verified without a $200 fee. The fee is more likely to be used as a revenue generator than used to enforce the deed verification requirement. Legislator Alden Wolfe claimed that although the budget for hiring staff is $200,000 to enforce the proposal, the amount of money the fee would generate would be approximately $1.2 million. The question being: What would the extra $1 million be used for?

The best way to enforce the rules is for the local towns to enforce the local zoning codes. Only then will problems like these ever be solved. Too often, local zoning codes are ignored because they either cannot be enforced or they are not meant to be enforced, but passed into law to satisfy a particular constituency.

Some of the issues with this fee include the possibility of slowing the buying process, which could result in the loss of rate lock agreements resulting in a higher interest rate on a loan and the loss of the sale entirely if the county takes several weeks to verify the deed.

Also, there is no way to force buyers who are not getting title insurance to actually comply with the law. Buyers may ignore verification if they decide they don’t want or need a survey done or if they are not buying title insurance generally. The county has also stated that verification will not apply to cash transactions.

The final point that was made regarding the fee, is that it should not apply to condo purchases as the owners of the building itself should be responsible and not individual condo owners. This is another point to consider in a proposal that has many flaws.

We urge County Executive Ed day and the Rockland County Legislature to abandon this proposal.

Philip Weiden
Legislative Affairs columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.