DeKALB – After two years, DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder John Acardo achieved his goal of bringing online the county’s land record system, which boasts 3.5 million land-record images.
Since May 6, Acardo and the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s Office have tested the online system with real estate professionals and property title searchers. The system recently became available for the public to use at all hours.
“For the homeowners or property owners, this is an essential tool to make sure your title record is cleared,” Acardo said.
People can use the system to see if they have any liens on their property. A lien can be issued by the local government for overdue water bill payments, for example, and can prevent a person from taking out a mortgage.
Another way people can use the tool is to fight against property fraud, one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, Acardo said. The recorder’s office is the legal authority to hold the title record for individual property, he said. The office is used by lenders and title companies to check if a title is cleared.
“You check your credit score, you check your background,” he said. “You should also check the title to your home.”
One feature people can use to keep track of their land records is the office’s property watch system. It’s a free service and people who sign up can be notified immediately if there is a lien, fraud or mortgage on their property, Acardo said.
The two-year project to put the land records online cost almost $62,000, but those costs were not paid by taxpayers, Acardo said. All the costs were paid out of an Automation Fund, which collects fees from services provided by the office with the purpose of enhancing technology.
The most expensive part of the project was redacting sensitive personal information from the land records, such as social security numbers and bank information. Redacting all the documents took nine months and cost $50,000.
While the project was expensive, ultimately taxpayers are anticipated to save roughly $30,000 annually by reducing the amount of time the office typically devotes to researching land records, Acardo said. Now that the research is automated, people can search records at home. Five or six people used to visit the office each day, on average, but now only two or three people visit, he said.
“We anticipate it will be less people coming in,” he said.
Land records from 1837 through 1906 and 1945 to the present are currently online. Acardo said he hopes by the end of the year the office will index the rest of the records that exist in the gap between 1906 and 1945. When that happens, DeKalb County will be the second county in the state with a paperless recorder’s office, right behind McHenry County.
To learn more about the online records system or register to view the documents online, visit the DeKalb County Land Records Search System website here.
By the numbers
3.5 million: Number of land record images online dating back to 1837.
40,000: Estimated number of land record images gathered this year.
9,663: Number of documents collected by the DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder’s Office for 2013.