Do I Need a Certified Deed?

The Facts: I recently received a letter from a company suggesting that I should have a certified copy of my deed. The company offered to get the deed for me for about $85.

The Question: Is this a scan?

The Answer: Yes, it is a scam and one that is quite lucrative for the company making the offer. The reason it is a scam is that most people will never need a certified copy of their deed. In the unlikely event a property owner needs to produce a certified copy of the deed to their house, they can easily obtain one either in person or by mail for a fraction of what the company is charging. Although companies like the one that sent you the letter often refer to an article published by the Federal Citizen Information Center (“FCIC”) to convince property owners that they must have a certified copies of their deeds, it is noteworthy that the FCIC website contains a warning about the deceptive practices of companies that send mass mailings like the one you received to unsuspecting property owners.

 How It Works: When you purchased your property, the original deed signed by the seller should have been forwarded to the county clerk for recording. Once the deed was recorded in the county land records, the original deed would have been returned to you, as the new property owner, or to your attorney. If the original deed was not returned to you or your attorney, or if it has been lost, you can obtain a copy of the deed from the county clerk in the county where your property is located. Directions for how to obtain a copy of your deed are available by calling the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office at 631-852-2000. You can obtain a copy of a deed by making the request in person or by mailing in a request and supporting documentation. If, for some reason, you do need a certified copy of your deed, the county clerk can also provide you with a certified copy of your deed. Rather than paying the $85 charged by some private companies, you will only have to pay the county clerk about $5.00 to get a certified copy of a deed up to 4 pages long.

Once you have your deed, you should keep it in a safe place, along with other important documents like your birth and marriage certificates, will, power of attorney, healthcare proxy, titles to vehicles you own, insurance policies and passport.

This article first appeared in the April 5, 2012 issue of the Times Beacon Newspapers.

Linda M. Toga of The Law Offices of Linda M. Toga, P.C. is an East Setauket, New York attorney with a general law practice focusing on estate planning, real estate, marital planning, small business services and litigation.