Researching Ownership Key to Avoiding Mistakes
One of the most common problems I encounter as a prosecutor occurs when inspectors jump to conclusions about who owns property. Because of liability considerations, it is rare for an individual to own an apartment complex or commercial real estate in his or her individual name. If an inspector tells me that the owner of a large building is a living, breathing human being, my next question is “Did you check with the Recorder of Deeds?” The answer is almost always “no”. The records kept by the Recorder of Deeds are the gold standard for determining who owns the property. Until an inspector checks for that information, the research job is incomplete. Lucky for all of us, many of these records can be found posted online on the Recorder’s website. Inspectors can often obtain a copy of a deed of ownership for a small charge or sometimes for free at the website. It used to be you’d have to drive out to the county building to get the information or spend time on hold waiting for somebody at the Recorder’s office to help you. This kind of access has really made me more efficient.