You may have heard a commercial currently running on various radio stations regarding protecting the title to your house and real estate. The commercial basically says you need to pay the company to put a “lock” on your deed to prevent you from losing it. Do you really need protection from fraud for your deed?
The commercial says you can lose your house by a thief finding your deed online, then changing ownership on the deed from you to the thief, and then borrowing money from a lender using your property as collateral. Let’s discuss this step by step.
First, your deed is a public record. Your county recorder keeps a copy of your deed, and anyone can see it. Some records are online. You may be able to sit at home and look at your deed(s) for any property in your county. At a minimum, you can make a trip to the recorder’s office and see any deed you want. So, the commercial is correct in that a thief could see your deed relatively easily.
Next, the thief must change the name of the owner on the deed. Changing ownership on a deed is not as easy as it sounds. In Ohio, each deed requires the owner to sign the deed in the presence of a public notary. To be successful, a thief would need to draft a deed, forge the signature of the owner(s) and then find someone to falsely notarize the signature or falsely notarize it themselves. Falsifying a notary is a criminal offense, so not just anyone will do it.
Many eyes see fraudulent deeds
Even with the forged signature and notary, the deed must be reviewed by the county tax map office, the auditor’s office and recorder’s office. Any of these three county offices may discover the forgery and thwart the thief’s plan. Also, remember that real estate transfers are published in many local newspapers. You might see the fraudulent transfer in the newspaper, or your friends and family might see the transfer; somebody is likely going to see that “you” sold your farm or house — and ask you about it.
Lastly, even if the thief was able to get a forged deed recorded without your knowledge, the commercial seems to indicate the thief could simply use the forged deed as collateral on loans. This would be very difficult to accomplish. Any reputable lender will require seeing identification from the borrower. So, the thief would also need a forged driver’s license or other government-issued identification to match the deed. Additionally, the lender would likely want the property appraised and inspected. The presence of an appraiser walking around your property is going to make you start asking questions. If you have ever taken out a mortgage to buy property, you know it would be hard to dupe the lender.
Deed obtained by forgery, fraud doesn’t transfer title
Even if the thief were able to record a deed and somehow convince a lender to loan him money, you are still not going to lose the property. The law is not going to take away your property based on forgery and fraud, because a deed obtained by forgery or fraud does not transfer title to the property. The most likely outcome is that the lender would be out the loaned money. You may have some legal fees to remove the forged deed, but your property will not be taken from you.
As you can see, losing ownership of your home or land through forgery is extremely unlikely. If it were likely, you would have needed the title fraud service long before now. You can feel confident that your most valuable asset is safe.
Moore is an attorney with Wright & Moore Law Co. LPA. Contact him at 740-990-0751 or email@example.com.