Electronic Document Recording: 2021 Update
Wow! It has been an overwhelming past year-and-a-half, particularly with the pandemic and everything that came with it. I’m thankful to work in an essential business area – namely, the real estate field.
Prior to joining Alliant National, I worked at eRecording Partners Network (ePN) for eight years. They’re one of the main electronic document recording service providers. The other main vendors are CSC, Indecomm and Simplifile.
Document recording is one of the final steps in the real estate transaction process. Getting real estate documents officially on record with counties is essential to the successful completion of a transaction. This process includes traditional recording of paper documents, as well as electronic document recording (eRecording for short).
eRecording started back in 1999 and it uses technology that’s now over 20 years old; some people are surprised by this. The eRecording process offers numerous benefits for title agents, other business submitters and counties. Turnaround times are reduced. Final policies are issued more quickly and the gap time is lessened. Some other benefits include: faster rejection resolution; streamlined electronic payments; the elimination of rejections for incorrect recording fee payments; compliance with industry best practices; and lender requirements and eco-friendliness. Plus, eRecording is more streamlined, secure, and cost-effective. As one title agent said to me a couple years ago, “It’s like going from the Flintstones to the Jetsons!”
But how does the process work exactly? Well, first it’s important to understand that eRecording is an “e-delivery” business service option for title companies, law firms, banks and other businesses that record land record documents frequently. It is not a service for one-time document recording. Once you have your documents executed and ready to record, eRecording is another option for document delivery, recording and return. County business customers can choose to pay postage, UPS, FedEx, a courier or an employee to deliver and return their paper documents. Or they can pay to eRecord them. Most eRecording vendors charge a few dollars per document. Some have other fees as well. Explore your options to ensure you are selecting an eRecording provider that best fits your unique business needs.
Getting started with eRecording is easy. Requirements are basic. You need a computer, a scanner, internet access and a web browser. You’ll also need to choose and sign up for a service with an eRecording vendor approved by counties where you record documents. Once your eRecording vendor sets up your login and account, you should be able to start eRecording immediately. Most counties typically have multiple approved eRecording vendor options. Most have approved ePN, CSC and Simplifile as eRecording vendor options. Sometimes Indecomm is included as well.
When you eRecord, the fees remain the same. eRecording vendors typically charge a fee per document; usually, this amounts to a few dollars. Some have adopted a “variable rate” approach based on volume and other factors. Some also charge additional sign-up, monthly or annual fees. Ask each vendor for their pricing options to gain a clear picture.
Today, eRecording is legal and available in 49 states, plus Washington, D.C. Vermont is the only state where eRecording isn’t yet legal. As of August 2021, almost 2,300 jurisdictions are eRecording nationwide. That’s about 88 percent by population. In about 15 states, 100 percent of the counties allow eRecording. Alliant National’s home state of Colorado is one of the states with eRecording available in 100 percent of its counties. The Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) is a great resource for state and county status for eRecording. Many state and/or county recording associations also provide information on eRecording availability, as well as contact info for each county recording office.
Due in big part to the COVID-19 pandemic, use of eRecording sky-rocketed in 2020. Shortly after the pandemic hit in March of 2020, things changed for everyone. At the county level, offices closed or had limited access. Some Recorder offices closed completely for a time or tried to continue operations by working remotely. It was a challenging period, and for a time, there seemed to be a lull in eRecording activity in county offices. In some cases, operations still aren’t back to where they were pre-pandemic. But thankfully, as we got toward the latter part of last year, we started to see a rise in county adoption of eRecording once again.
Now you may be asking, what about recording turnaround times? Pre-pandemic, it was pretty safe to estimate same day or next day eRecording by counties. And in many cases, it wasn’t uncommon for counties to turn documents around within a couple hours or less. However, during the pandemic, turnaround times increased in many counties, and at times dramatically. Situations, of course, varied. Sometimes, both traditional recording and eRecording were affected. In others, traditional recording was affected, but eRecording wasn’t affected as much. Over the course of the past year-and-a-half, we’ve seen improvements. I’m sure that those of you “in the trenches” and involved with getting documents recorded have seen and experienced fluctuations and changes in recording turnaround times. But I can say with confidence that eRecording certainly helps with recording turnaround overall.
Over the past decade, eRecording has received more attention due to regulatory changes (CFPB and TRID), more stringent requirements on lenders and, in turn, on their service providers – including those that record documents with counties. ALTA released its best practices in early 2013, which included a call for faster delivery, tracking and timely response to rejections. PRIA also released their TRID Informational Paper and their eRecording Best Practices for Recorders in 2015. These documents cover items like accepting all document types, allowing multiple eRecording vendors, imaging and making eRecording easy for their business customers, among others.
While there are now almost 15 states with 100 percent eRecording, there are others that are close to the 100 percent mark. To gain a complete picture of each state’s status, PRIA put together a helpful map. Some states are working on legislation that would mandate that all counties make eRecording available by a certain date. My home state of Ohio is one of them. I know that Indiana, Kentucky and others are working on legislation as well.
As of July 2021, about 88 percent of the U.S. population lives in eRecording jurisdictions. Counties continue to come online with eRecording or expand their services by adding more eRecording document types. Counties, eRecording submitter vendors, underwriters, and industry associations like ALTA, PRIA and state associations, continue to raise awareness and promote eRecording. If eRecording is not yet available in counties where you conduct business, please ask your county recording office how soon they will offer eRecording or when they’ll start eRecording deeds and let them know that you are interested to explore the benefits of this technology.
For more information on eRecording, here are the websites for eRecording vendors that service counties across the U.S.:
Bob Grohol is AVP & State Manager Ohio, Penn. & Mich., with Alliant National Title Insurance Company. He can be reached at 440-228-0826 or BGrohol@AlliantNational.com.