Buyer Beware: Don’t Fall for Deceptive Real Estate Solicitation Scams

Our office provides a variety of real estate services, including title and closing services. Buying or selling real estate requires transferring title with a deed and recording it with the county recorder’s office in which the property is located. The original deed is then returned to the buyer for safe keeping. If, for some reason, the original deed is lost or misplaced, copies of the deed can be obtained from the county recorder’s office, typically for the cost of about $1 per page. As a matter of practice, our office retains copies of relevant deeds in a client’s file.

There has been an upswing in recent years in the number of companies who are sending letters to Minnesota property owners that, at first glance, look like a bill from a government agency. These letters often look very official and attempt to get property owners to pay upwards of $90 to obtain a copy of their real estate deed or property profile. These letters may contain buzzwords like "U.S. Government," "official," and "certified copy" in order to coerce property owners into paying the fee. The fine print may disclose that a deed is not required, but many of us fail to read or notice the fine print disclaimer.

The companies sending these letters rely on the fact that many homeowners don’t know how, where, or when to obtain the deed to their property. In the event that you are buying, selling, or otherwise transferring title to your property, or perhaps refinancing your mortgage, you – or the person or entity handling your closing – can always obtain a copy of your deed from the county recorder or registrar of titles. There is no need to pay a private company to obtain the deed on your behalf.

Remember, too, that property records are public record and available online. You can obtain property tax statements, pay your property taxes, and view a map or aerial photo of your property through many county websites. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to contact your attorney or the title company that handled your real estate closing about any correspondence you may have received about a recent real estate transaction.

Do you have questions about real estate transactions? Contact our office and one of our experienced real estate attorneys will be able to assist you.

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