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GCN : June and July 2016
RECORDS can be property-specific (such as a house number or home- owner name) or more gen- eral, such as a street name or the term “death certificates.” When PRN picks up a new re- cord that contains an associ- ated search term, it notifies the account holders who specified that term. “Property Records Notifica- tion was born, I guess, out of frustration for how things were done,” Brown said. Before PRN, county residents could sign up for quarterly email notifications about any newly recorded information associated with their property. But that often returned irrele- vant information in an untime- ly fashion. “In a county of 1.2 million people, you can guess that I’m not the only Lisa Brown in Oak- land County, Mich.,” Brown said. “Every few months I’d receive a bunch of emails, but none of them had anything to do with me or my property.” To get fresher, more spe- cific information, people could search the Super Index them- selves, but it returned only information that had already been recorded. Because it doesn’t take long for property to be stolen, Brown wanted something that would notify users of changes in near-real time. “If I sign up today and put in 123 Main St., nothing will come up,” Brown said. But when there is any ac- tion relating to that property, PRN will send an email message. “The system is triggered when it picks out that search term and will push out an email to you.” PRN is essentially mail technology added to the database Xerox created for the county, said Louis Schiavone, managing director of local govern- ment solutions at Xerox. The system is accessible via desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones — anything with an Internet connection. The county uses a Google appliance to store the information. Because it’s open to the public, the main security element comes in protecting the email addresses and pass- words of people who set up PRN accounts, Brown said. Although the central purpose of PRN is to alert homeowners to forged deeds or fraudulent liens on their properties, Brown said the system has other uses, too. For instance, if someone is behind on homeowner associa- tion dues, that will get record- ed and an alert could go out. The process is the same when someone pays off a mortgage. “It’s not just about fraud but whatever is happening on your property or whoever’s property you want to monitor,” Brown said. She added that PRN has po- tential as a tool for law enforce- ment. For instance, if someone is suspected of deed fraud, police can sign up for an alert whenever a specific name ap- pears, and when PRN records an action associated with that name, the police get an alert. PRN’s benefits to the public are obvious, but it’s also help- ing Brown run her office more efficiently. “When people are empow- ered to get this information themselves, they don’t need to be calling my office...or ask- ing staff to check on the title to their property,” she said. “They’re going to know when something has been recorded.” Schiavone estimates that PRN saves “a year or two years just in la- bor alone that gets avoided by using the system,” he said. But “I wouldn’t even know how to put a number on what happens in an actual fraud case where people lose money or have to spend money to gain their properties back.” • 48 GCN JUNE/JULY 2016 • GCN.COM The web-based Property Records Notification system allows homeowners to specify the types of alerts they want to receive about their properties. It replaces a less tailored and timely system. 0716gcn_047-048.indd 48 6/1/16 9:22 AM
August and September 2016