Mail alert: Property deed mailings not official

Legal-looking notices are flooding mailboxes across the country urging homeowners to get certified copies of the deed to their property. But it's not really an official notice from the government, and you can get deed copies yourself for a fraction of what the company wants you to pay.

A notice currently flooding mail boxes implies the federal government recommends you have an official, certified copy of the deed to your property to prove it's legally yours.

The company, National Record Service, Inc. out of Illinois, writes "To obtain a Certified Copy of your Deed, complete the order form below and return it in the enclosed postage paid envelope with your payment of $69.50."

According to the mailer, the charge for a second certified copy is $20.

The notice is correct in stating that a deed provides evidence that your property was legally transferred to you. But after that it's a way to cash in on what many people don't know. You can get a certified copy of your property deed for less than $5 through your county records office.

"You don't need to use this company to get these documents," said King County spokesman Cameron Satterfield. "You can get non-certified copies, you can look them up on our website absolutely free of charge. If you do need certified copies for whatever reason, it's just $3 for the first page and $1 for each additional page. Most real estate deeds are only a couple of pages. So again, it's about $5 to get a certified copy from us."

Satterfield says other local counties are also getting calls about the mailings, so don't be deceived. There's no good reason to pay 14 times more than you need to. King County just posted multiple warnings on it's website. The Better Business Bureau reports numerous complaints about National Record Service and gives the company its worst possible rating of F.

In its mailing National Record Services does point out that many government records are available free or at a minimal cost from government agencies. In small print, the company acknowledges that it is not affiliated with any government agency.