Sees cost savings for taxpayers, green benefits
Niagara County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow, long a proponent of modernization of county clerk operations around New York state, announced his office would immediately begin the process of transitioning to electronic recording of land records following recent passage of landmark legislation by the State Legislature.
Under enabling legislation passed by the state government, clerk's offices will be allowed to accept digitally scanned copies of land records as well as electronically generated records that include "electronic signatures," already a common practice in business procurement.
Paper recording would still be allowed.
Jagow, who was an early backer of the proposed law, also advocated for the inclusion of safeguards in any e-recording system.
"This is a big step for county clerk offices," Jagow said. "All along, we've encouraged the state to look at this. The amount of paperwork involved in land sales is onerous. Truthfully, I think we may have just saved a couple of forests from being cut down."
Jagow paused, and then noted that comment was only partially in jest.
"Honestly, we're happiest about the savings to the taxpayers," he said. "Storing paper documents is costly. Mailing copies of records out is costly, in printing and postage costs. In this day and age, both are also largely unnecessary. The new technology is 'green' in two important regards: it saves the environment, and it saves greenbacks. I'm glad New York state has finally taken a step that many other county clerks have been telling them they needed to take for a number of years."
Jagow also allayed concerns about the survivability of electronic records.
"We have triple-redundancy on all of our electronic transactions, including off-site storage in a very safe, very survivable facility," Jagow noted. "And any personal information is completely safeguarded."
The state's legislation proved popular with nearly all parties involved in real estate closings, and its cause was taken up by the New York State Association of Counties, which formally proposed the version of the law that was passed. Among other key backers of the bill were the New York State Bar Association, the New York State Land Title Association, and the New York Bankers Association.
Under the state's legislation, passed late last month, the state has one year to implement unified standards. During that time, Jagow says his office will be taking major steps to add e-recording.
When electronic recording goes into effect, each county clerk will choose whether to participate, with Jagow fully expecting to join. Participating offices will provide the following options:
Jagow said he looks forward to starting the program in Niagara County.
"New York has to set universal guidelines, and we hope they emplace stringent rules that protect all New Yorkers," Jagow said. "We plan to abide by or surpass any guidelines they establish. Our taxpayers deserve no less."