Morrisville, NC – The Board of Directors of the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) has given final approval to the Best Practices: Indexing Names & Parties paper produced by the Business Processes and Procedures Committee.
The recorder’s property records Index exists in a form very similar to a phone book listing.¹ It is the way to find the necessary citation so that a document itself can be retrieved. The document determines whether ownership of property or an interest in the property may have changed and it is the document that must ultimately be evaluated. The index is the tool to locate document.
Typical, statutory requirements for an index are 1) names of the parties to the document; 2) the date and time of filing or recording; 3) the document/instrument number (or other location data, such as “book and page”); and 4) the type of document/instrument.
According to PRIA President Mark Ladd, vice president of regulatory and industry affairs for Simplifile, LC, “Over the past 75 years, many recorders adopted practices of adding information to the index. The recorders did so to make it easier for customers (often individuals in the property records industries) to determine whether they might be interested in reviewing the particular document. Examples of information added to the typical index include: abbreviated legal descriptions, cross-references to related documents or court-case numbers, multiple variations on a name appearing in a document and an ever-expanding category of types of documents.”
Most of these index additions were made to enhance customer service, since the effort to retrieve and study the actual document was significant and time-consuming until the early 2000s and the advent of document imaging making it much easier to offer a searcher a view of the actual document for evaluation.
Kathi Guay, register of deeds in Merrimack Co., N.H., and co-chair of the PRIA Business Processes and Procedures Committee, explains, “There is a possible negative impact to adding information to the index: increased liability for the recorder. This liability could arise from the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of a document; therefore, the Property Records Index needs to be thought of as a living document. Items are added daily, items are changed daily and corrections are made when discovered. The index needs to be as consistent and as straightforward as possible.”
According to Myron Finley, chief legal officer of Nationwide Title Clearing Inc., and fellow co-chair of the PRIA Business Processes and Procedures Committee, “Since there is little legislation or few administrative rules, with the exception of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, this Best Practices: Indexing Names & Parties paper is intended to capture the rules and guidelines currently being used by recording jurisdictions to index property records. This concept especially comes into play as electronic recording continues to expand, now over 1,260 jurisdictions, and submitters are asked to include some data indexing as part of the eRecording process.”
¹ In the United States, land document recording may take place at the State, City, Town, County, Borough or Parish level. Depending on the jurisdiction, the Office of the Recorder may also be known as Recorder of Deeds, Registrar-General, Register of Deeds, Registrar of Deeds, Registrar of Titles, Deeds Registry, Auditor, or Deeds Office. In some states, the recording function is part of the county clerk’s responsibilities. Throughout this paper, the term utilized for this role will simply be “Recorder.”
The Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) develops and promotes national standards and best practices for the property records industry. PRIA is a coalition of government and business partners collaborating to formulate positions on issues of common interest. PRIA strives to identify areas of consensus within the industry, leading to recommendations for national standards pertaining to recordable documents. For more information on PRIA, visit www.pria.us.