Marc Gravitt, Hamilton County’s register of deeds, says it’s going to be harder for someone to steal privately owned property in the county now that his office has launched a property fraud alert system.
Citing a growing concern among property owners, law enforcement and the Register’s Office over the pilfering of real estate through fraudulent recordings, Gravitt oversaw the development and launch of the system, which is available to residents of Hamilton County.
To register, property owners must enter their name or business name, as well as their address and phone number, at register.hamiltontn.gov. If the Register’s Office records a document that matches the information, the owner will receive an email within a few minutes, Gravitt says.
The owner can then call the Register’s Office to learn what the office recorded.
Property owners with a common name who receive too many notifications can adjust their preferences or opt out of the program, Gravitt says.
“We wanted to roll out the program as soon as possible, but also not before we felt it was ready,” Gravitt adds. “We put the program through many months of testing, and are already working on adding text messages and email notifications.”
Examples of liens being filed – possibly without the individual’s knowledge – include homeowners association assessments, mechanics and materialman’s liens, state tax liens, federal tax liens and default judgements.
“A few years ago, a group targeted judges, law enforcement officers and elected officials, placing liens on their property,” Gravitt says. “The individuals were eventually found guilty and sentenced to prison.”
Although the General Assembly has since stiffened the penalties, property owners are not necessarily notified when a real or fraudulent lien has been placed on their property until they try to sell it, Gravitt adds.
In one pending case in Hamilton County, an individual allegedly attempted to create a false chain of title by recording several quitclaim deeds on a piece of real estate he did not own.
“We are not law enforcement, but when a document that meets all Tennessee Code requirements for recording still doesn’t look right, we attempt to research further,” Gravitt explains. “We then notify the appropriate authorities.”
Gravitt also recently introduced language translation technology to the Register’s Office.
“When I first came into office a couple of years ago, I noticed children coming in with their parents to act as translators,” Gravitt says. “We have since invested in technology that allows us to communicate with customers in over 100 languages, both by text and voice.”
Gravitt says both the property fraud alert system and translation technology will benefit the local community.
“It will give people a little peace of mind regarding their property and make government services more accessible to people new to our area.”
According to Gravitt, the Register’s Office records 98 different types of documents and averages approximately 300 multipage document sets a day.