Ohio’s County Deed Recorders on the Verge of Digitization

Plus, New Provisions to Prevent Deed Fraud

Senate Bill 94, sponsored by the two Republican State Senators Al Landis and Andrew Brenner, has successfully passed in the Ohio Senate. Its goal? Modernizing the 88 county recorders’ offices throughout Ohio.

If the new law goes into effect as proposed, then by June 30, 2026, counties will need to digitize the documents they’ve recorded at any point since 1980. They’ll also need to enable eRecording for real estate deeds.

The Senate’s bill also adds a very important anti-fraud mechanism. Deed recording offices would be authorized to inspect the documents presented to them. The officials could refuse to record any documents that appears to be forged or fraudulent. We’ve bolded the relevant text here:

The county recorder may refuse to record an instrument of writing presented for recording if the instrument is not required or authorized by the Revised Code to be recorded or the county recorder has reasonable cause to believe the instrument is materially false or fraudulent.

Sponsor Al Landis says it was the Covid pandemic that prompted Ohio lawmakers “to understand how important it was to have access to documents electronically.” The proposed law, Landis says, will empower Ohio residents to “access their real estate transactions at any time, from any place.”

Proposed: “County Recorder Electronic Record Modernization Program”

Under Ohio’s new proposal, each county recorder, auditor, or engineer would need to provide an e-Recording method. The digitized records would be free and open to the public. Through the proposed program, the state treasurer’s office would disburse $6 million in funds to counties to assist them in complying with the updated law.

At this time, the Ohio House of Representatives is considering the bill, which also:

  • Raises certain recording fees. For instance, the bill would allow county recorders to charge a document preservation surcharge of up to $5 when recording. Currently, recorders charge fees totalling $34 for the first two pages and $8 more per subsequent page. County recorders will be able to e a document preservation surcharge on top of those standard fees, in order to handle internet costs for electronic document hosting, online viewing, printing.
  • Imposes a fee for online transmissions. Under the proposed law, a county recorder’s office could charge a fee of $2 per page for electronically transmitting a document.
  • Tweaks informational rules for rental properties. The proposed law authorizes the agent for the deed holder of a rental property to file the owner’s contact details with a county auditor.
  • Includes an anti-fraud provision for power of attorney. The new law, if passed by the House and signed by the governor, would update the requirements for power of attorney for real estate deeds and related documents. Power of attorney, when used in order to execute a deed, must be properly signed and notarized before the real estate document itself is signed and notarized.
  • Modifies the rules of lien priority in case of foreclosure. A junior lien that’s used to pay a previously recorded mortgage would have the same priority as that previous mortgage. Assuming both the borrower and lender mean for a new mortgage to replace the mortgage being satisfied, and assuming the holders of other junior liens have the same expectations, this will be the rule.

What will be most obvious as these proposed changes roll out? The public will be able to access electronic versions of legal real estate documents through their county deed recorders’ websites.

This legal news update is for general information only. If you have a question regarding the potential impact of this proposal on your own situation, consult your Ohio real estate lawyer.

Supporting References

The Ohio Senate – 135th General Assembly: My Ohio Legislature / Al Landis News: Senate Passes Landis Bill to Modernize Records by County Recorders (May 8, 2024).

Ohio Legislative Service Commission, Office of Research and Drafting, via LSC.Ohio.gov: Bill Analysis – Ohio Senate Bill 94, Regards the Treasurer of State, Recorded Instruments, Liens, Etc. (May 16, 2024; linking the full bill in PDF form).

Summary of Ohio Senate Bill 94 (PDF) as Passed by the Ohio Senate.

And as linked.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.