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Report from the Line: Recording a Deed in 2010.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | June 30, 2010

No. 461

Who was it who said, “the faster I go the behinder I get?”

Whoever it was could have found inspiration in the Department of Real Estate (pronounced Recorder of Deeds in 66 Counties).

So here I am arriving at the DRE, running a bit late, but — mirabile dictu — there is no one in line to record  but me!  Al, who is now in command of the bridge, but I can remember his first day long ago, squints at my handful of documents with a clinical eye: “is there a deed in there?”

Of course there is, which means that before I can record I must visit that Chamber of Horrors, the Deed Certification Room.  This idea hatched by Deed Registry, is supposed to save a lot of trouble by catching bad deed descriptions before they are recorded.

Over in the far side there is a glass enclosure where the microfilm used to be.  I had never gotten used to the onset of microfilm, always needing help when I stumbled in there, and now all those shelves full of little boxes of Kodak film on spools are gone, the microfilm readers are gone too.

Lucky they kept some of the stools from the microfilm reading days, its nice to be able to sit in line after  a certain period of time.  Up at the front, Bill is telling some poor embarrassed lawyer that he will have to keep his deed overnight, so that he can properly diagnose what is wrong.  The meets and bounds are clearly wrong, but it will take another day to figure it out.

Despite this, nobody is in a hurry to leave. After a while, Bill discovers that the prior deed had the same mistake.  Back in the day, I might mention, lawyers checked descriptions against surveys and sometimes made corrections.  I remember those days and the lawyers who did such exemplary work.  They were true artists.  Unfortunately, most of them are dead.

Meanwhile, I notice that a large pile of deeds that either came in the mail or were left behind have not been processed.  Since it is almost 4 PM, they probably will await tomorrow — unless there is a night shift.

Eventually, I am next.  Bill is looking at a photogrametric assessment map, with property lines overlaid on an aerial photograph. He clicks on the parcel — confirms ownership, confirms the description.  I am outa there!

One of the bad things about getting old is that you remember things.  When I came on the scene, recording was backed up for weeks, working on months.  Mike Dellavecchia, now judge, was elected Recorder of Deeds on the pledge to use emerging technology to clean up the backlog.  Now they seem to be working on creating a new one.  That’s progress.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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