Question: My elderly mother received a notice in the mail from a company saying she should send them $70.00 to get a certified copy of the deed to her house.  The notice says that the U.S. Government recommends she have a certified copy of her deed.  But in the fine print it also says these documents are free from the government.  Is this just a scam? Should I be alarmed by the mail notice?

Answer: I also received one of these notices and laughed when I read it.  The company, called the National Deed Service, Inc., is located at Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. – a precarious address which no doubt attempts to add legitimacy to this non-government entity.  The notice is quite formal and tries to urge homeowners to obtain a certified copy of their deed.  It justifies its claims by referring to the U.S. Government Federal Citizen Information Center website.

For fun, I searched this website and found no advice about having a certified copy of one’s deed.  I did, however, find a section about current consumer scams.  Guess which company is listed…

The company appears to be conducting legal activity by charging simply for doing the legwork necessary to obtain a certified copy of one’s deed.  But the company crosses the line by creating a false sense of urgency for homeowners.  Sure, a homeowner should have a copy of their deed.  But a certified copy is not a requirement.  A certified copy of a deed is rarely used in legal actions.

Furthermore, anyone wishing to walk into the Registry of Deeds at 360 Gorham Street, Lowell can get a free certified copy of their deed.  Of course there is always the plain old copy version available for download at www.lowelldeeds.com.

$70.00 is a hefty price to pay for this “service”.  For this amount of money, your Mother can hire a limousine to drive her and some friends to the Registry to get free certified copies of their deeds.  Sounds like a fun day out.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law and estate planning in Billerica at  Boston Road.  Contact him with questions at 978-671-0711, prioritylaw.com, or email him at james@hlawoffice.com.

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