Admittedly, this act of rebellion against MERS, the electronic mortgage registry by a Pennsylvania county is comparatively minor, but nevertheless illustrates the efforts various local bodies are taking to assert their authority against a system imposed without regard to state and local real estate laws.
Montgomery County estimates that it has lost $15 million in recording fees due to MERS, which its Recorder of Deeds, Nancy Becker, says has also made a mess of title records. She is working to get the county to cease doing business with banks that make use of MERS, and has launched an effort to get other counties in the state to follow suit.
From the Times Herald (hat tip Lisa Epstein):
Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds Nancy Becker is urging registers of deeds across state and the country to withdraw public money from any banks affiliated with the Mortgage Electronic Registry System (MERS), which she claims is undermining the practice of accurate land recording.
In recent years, mortgages have been assigned and reassigned multiple times, and when a bank or other entity doesn’t properly report these transfers, it makes it very difficult for homeowners to determine who holds their mortgages.
“It clouds the chain of title, and it’s prohibiting (officials) from recording revenues they should be recording,” Becker said.
Since 2004, she estimates the county has lost $15 million in fees from 139,798 mortgages recorded via the electronic recording system that fails to reflect assignments. Becker said she fields calls about once a month from a homeowner seeking help finding proof a mortgage has been satisfied, so the person can sell their house.
“The problem is finding out where or with what firm a mortgage is assigned….It’s just sloppy, sloppy work,” she said.
The electronic system is referred to in many county mortgage documents this way: “MERS is a separate corporation that is acting as sole nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns. MERS is the mortgagee (lender) under this security instrument.”
“What I’d like to get out to new homebuyers is that, if they’re going to settlement and they see their bank slash MERS, to be cautious,” she said.
Since discovering the descrepancies, Becker has pulled the county funds out of Wells Fargo and transferred the money into Univest National Bank and Trust Company, a smaller local bank based in Souderton. The bank had been approached by MERS but decided not to partner with the cyber registry.
“They’re just a really good conservative bank,” the Recorder of Deeds said.