Pennsylvania Land Title Association Urges Action Against Proposed Law
April 20, 2006
Citing Risks and Costs to Public in House Bill 2249
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa., /PRNewswire/ -- A bill under review in Pennsylvania's General Assembly would rescind the public right to free access to the public record. According to the State's leading land title organization, House Bill 2249 would add cost, inconvenience and risk for members of the title insurance industry and for the general public. The bill would take away guaranteed free access to property tax records by allowing private tax collection agencies to hoard these records and charge a premium to any party needing a statement of taxes due or paid.
HB 2249, an attempt to rewrite the law to legalize privatization of public tax records, has passed the House Finance Committee and is now awaiting consideration by the House Appropriations Committee. Without vocal and persistent opposition, this bill could become law during the spring session of the Pennsylvania Legislature, which opens on April 24.
Robert F. Musser, Esq., CLTP, president of Pennsylvania Land Title Association (PLTA), notes that school districts and municipalities have the right to work independently of the county Tax Claim Bureaus to collect delinquent taxes through the use of private sector third party collection entities. However, state law requires that homeowners, taxpayers and businesses in the title and real estate industry must also have public, convenient, affordable and efficient access to real estate tax records maintained at a central location in the county offices.
"Individuals report being asked to pay from $25 to $50 for this information by private tax collection companies who now hoard real estate tax information on approximately 70 school districts. If this illegal behavior is legalized and made permanent by HB 2249, we can anticipate a further conversion of the public record to an instrument of unchecked private profit," Musser said. "If land records are parceled out among a variety of private vendors who have no responsibility for maintaining the public record, the integrity of public records is destroyed, opening the door to claims each year, costing consumers untold thousands of dollars."
PLTA points out that this bill would add cost and risk for all Pennsylvanians who wish to buy, sell or borrow against property:
Costs for access to public information would hit senior citizens especially hard;
Professionals involved in a mortgage or real estate transaction would face extra work in the lending and settlement processes;
Financial burdens would accrue to title insurance agents who cannot pass on this charge for access to the public record, and to title insurance underwriters who would be exposed to increased risk due to gaps in the record.
Musser says, "We are urging all Pennsylvanians to contact their legislators as soon as possible and urge them to withhold their support of HB 2249. Visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us and use the search function to find your legislator. Public access to public records is at stake here."
Source: Pennsylvania Land Title Association