Counties see benefits of e-records
LUVERNE — The Rock County Land Records Office will host an open house Wednesday to showcase its new electronic recording program. It is the fifth county in District 7 to offer electronic acceptance of files for mortgages, satisfactions, deeds and other documents previously required to be submitted in paper form. Four counties have yet to make the transition, including Nobles, Jackson, Murray and Redwood.
“This is where the world is turning,” said Tom Houselog, Rock County Land Records director. “Everything is moving electronically. We’re basically catching up to what technology allows us to do.”
While the advantages to e-recording are numerous, the most notable is that people will be able to email documents any time of the day, night or weekend without having to pay postage or overnight express delivery, and the turn-around time in the recorder’s office is drastically reduced.
Pipestone County was the first in the six counties of far southwest Minnesota to implement e-recording — making the transition in May 2012.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Pipestone County Recorder Mary Ann DeGroot. “My biggest complaint is I wish we would have started e-recording earlier than we did.”
DeGroot said her office is notified by email when a document arrives, and through the use of e-signatures and online banking, she never has to worry about getting a bad check.
“One of the best things, in the case of a mortgage, it’s instant filing,” she added.
If a document is emailed in after hours, DeGroot said they take care of it right away in the morning. Initially, she thought the e-recording system would generate about one electronic document per month, but the program has proved more popular.
“Last year we did 55,” she said.
From January through the end of last week, the Pipestone County Recorder’s office handled 121 electronically recorded documents.
Cottonwood County, which added e-recording of documents in May, has also seen its use increase.
“We first only accepted satisfactions and assignments because then we didn’t have to deal with deed and mortgage tax,” said Cottonwood County Recorder Kathleen Kretsch. In September, the office began recording all document types, including deeds and mortgages.
Kretsch said the only problem she had moving to e-recordings was getting the payments filed in the proper place.
“The deed and mortgage tax goes to the auditor-treasurer, while I keep the recording fees,” she said.
Since the office began accepting e-documents, Kretsch said they account for only 6 to 7 percent of all documents filed at the Cottonwood County Recorder’s office. Still, she knows it’s the wave of the future.
“That’s why I wanted to start early,” Kretsch said. “I foresee in the future, pretty much everything we do is going to be electronically. I wanted to figure out how to do this when we’re not getting inundated (with electronic documents).”
Kretsch said the movement to e-recording is a way to “keep up with the metro area.” E-recording in Minnesota began about five years ago.
Because the electronic recording of documents doesn’t allow the recorder’s office to ascertain if the documents are original, the offices are only allowed to work with trusted submitters. Companies like Xerox and Simplifile — the business leading demonstrations of the program at next Wednesday’s workshop in Luverne — must be certified to provide the service. So far, six companies are trusted submitters statewide.
“It’s really saved office staff time,” said DeGroot. “We don’t have to do near the work we used to do. We don’t have to scan in documents. I just can’t say enough good things about it.”
At the same time, if errors are found in the document, she can return it to the submitter and mistakes can be fixed within hours as opposed to days or weeks if paper documents are sent through the mail.
Filing e-documents also speeds up processing time. Because Minnesota is a race-noticed state, DeGroot said the first document received gets first priority. That matters for lenders, because it guarantees they are first in line if they submit electronic documents, she added.
Both Pipestone and Cottonwood counties had to complete computer hardware and software upgrades to be able to accept electronic documents, and Rock County is finishing up that step in the transition.
As for Wednesday’s workshop, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Commissioner meeting room at the Rock County Courthouse, Houselog invites anyone interested to attend. He anticipates some recorders from South Dakota will come to see how the program works.
“Nobody has been knocking our door down to record documents electronically, but we know there are submitters that are doing it electronically in other counties,” he said.
In Nobles County, Recorder Lynn Wilson anticipates her office will be able to accept electronic records sometime in 2014.
“We’re getting a new Landlink system in November, which had been on hold,” she said. “Once we get comfortable with that, we anticipate going forward (with e-recording).”
As of July — the latest update available from the Minnesota Electronic Real Estate Recording website — 24 Minnesota counties were recording all document types electronically, while 37 were doing limited document types.