Our monthly review where we recognize amazing customer service and diligence from the greatest in recording, statute, and lien best practices...along with the lackluster. Take a look at who wins gold, and who needs a little practice.
This month we look at a state with incredibly proficient online presence and research tools. Dependable property research is ideal for filing legal documents such as mechanics liens. This state in particular has mostly free and reliable online property research available in most counties. Their strong online presence comes in handy when dealing with one one weird quirk to their statute. We’ll also take a look at one state that misses the mark by requiring very specific property description information. While many counties in this state may have a strong online presence and some dependable research information, many exclude this one very important piece of information through any online support.
THE BEST: FLORIDA
The Sunshine State takes the gold this month with some of the most frequently updated and reliable online resources. Most Florida counties have a very dependable and user friendly research application available online. The Miami-Dade property appraiser in particular has an incredibly useful portal with information on the property owner, legal description, and GIS mapping complete with aerial photography. Other counties with incredibly thorough online presence include Hillsborough, Broward, Duval, Palm Beach, and Orange to name a few.
Having a strong and accessible online research presence is not only useful in Florida for researching the property, but is extraordinarily useful for finding any recorded Notices of Commencement. The Notice of Commencement, or NOC, is a recorded document designating the beginning of a project, and is generally filed by top-of-chain parties such as the Property Owner, or General Contractor. It must generally be posted clearly on the job site, and also recorded with the county recorder. In Florida, it can create additional hurdles for lower-tiered parties, as it may hold valuable information to file a required Notice to Owner. Florida counties generally have a strong record search feature that allow NOCs to be found easily and quickly. This can be a blessing for parties on projects where the NOC may not be clearly posted on the job site, or for parties who furnish materials to the job site, but do not physically visit the site itself.
THE Not-so-best: Minnesota
Don’t get us wrong, Minnesota has several counties with great GIS mapping and assessment tools. Many Minnesota counties even allow for e-recording mechanics liens, which gets an A+ in our book. However, one problem that plagues Minnesota property research is the constant struggle of defining if the property is Abstract or Torrens. What is the difference between the two? It is a complex system of differentiating between two types of real estate titles, and is relatively unique to Minnesota. The differentiation between the two types can impact how a mechanics lien is filed with the recorders office, and must often be verified by checking on the deed or with the recorder’s office.
Many counties in Minnesota do not make the differentiation between Abstract and Torrens property available online. Instead of checking through property resources available online, one must often call the recorder's office to get a correct answer about the nature of the property. If submitted incorrectly as Abstract when the property is Torrens, or vice versa, the mechanics lien may be rejected. Not making the distinction easily found online can cause a headache in the long run, and can delay a mechanics lien from getting filed.
IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT WINNING
As Andrea Jung said, “If you feel like it's difficult to change, you will probably have a harder time succeeding.” Thanks to all of the states and counties that are constantly redefining their online presence for better, more reliable research. As the construction industry continues to grow into the digital age, we need more great states with dependable online presence to help keep the payment process fair and reasonable.