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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: December 17, 2012 11:50 AM
From: Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Fraudulent Deeds
 
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce three pieces of legislation to address the growing problem of “house theft” that arises from the use of fraudulent deeds.

Hundreds of property owners in Philadelphia are shocked to find each year that title to their property has been stolen by an unknown party. The theft is usually accomplished by the use of false names, fraudulent notary certifications, or more complex financial deals perpetrated on unsophisticated or unsuspecting homeowners. It often takes years and thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees to undo the harm caused by these criminals and restore title to the rightful owner.

Deed theft is not only an issue in Philadelphia, but a phenomenon with statewide impact affecting many aspects of property ownership.


Document #1

Introduced as SB615

Description: The first piece of legislation (SB 1101 of previous session) will address the problem through changes to the Recording Laws.  These remedies include:
•Requiring county records to notify property owners when a deed is filed.
•Requiring a notice of title insurance to be filed by a buyer, which explains the risks of purchasing property without title insurance, as well as contains information regarding legal services and the proper State agency where consumer-related questions may be directed.
 
This piece of legislation has arisen from work done by the Fraudulent Property Conveyance Task Force of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
 

Document #2

Introduced as SB616

Description: The second piece of legislation (SB 1102 of previous session) will address the problem through changes to the Notary Public Law, which include:
•Increasing criminal penalties for fraudulent use of notary equipment and knowingly or recklessly notarizing false signatures.
•Increasing the limit on fees permissible by notaries, in conjunction with higher notary bond requirements for land documents.
•Requiring notaries to record a thumbprint of parties executing deeds in real property transactions in their notary log.  Previous language required this on the deed itself as well.  We struck this due to concerns from county recorders regarding cost to redact private information on public records.  The notary logs are not a matter of public record.
•Require a notary’s name to be printed below their signature in addition to their seal and stamp.  This will address issues with illegible notary signatures and faint or smudged stamps that could be indicators of fraudulent notarizations. (new language)
 
This piece of legislation has arisen from work done by the Fraudulent Property Conveyance Task Force of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
 

Document #3

Introduced as SB617

Description: The third piece of legislation (SB 1103) would allow county recorders to flag and delay processing of clearly fraudulent deeds.  In addition, the new language will include a requirement that the deed be signed by both the grantor and grantee.
 
This bill has arisen from legislation passed by Philadelphia City Council in 2010.