Report of the Municipal Land Records Commission
Prepared by the Vermont Municipal Land Records Commission with the Assistance of the Vermont Legislative Council
Table of Contents
*Editor’s Note: Minutes of Municipal Land Records
Commission and reports of its committees are posted on the commission’s web
I Vermont Municipal Land Records Commission Members
Ian Arnold, Vermont Bankers’ Association; Vermont Mortgage Bankers’ Association
Bobbi Brimblecombe, Marshfield Town Clerk & Treasurer
Peter Chase, Vermont Society of Land Surveyors
Denise Fehr/Rick Conklin, VT Department of Information and Innovation
Karen Gramer, Vermont Paralegal Organization
Donna Kinville, South Burlington City Clerk & Treasurer, Chair
Caroline Lockyer, Vermont Assessors & Listers’ Association
Office of the Vermont Secretary of State
Patricia McCoy, Poultney Town Clerk & Treasurer
Dianne McLaughlin, Vermont Association of Realtors
Priscilla Messier, Vermont League of Cities and Towns (St. Johnsbury Zoning Administrator)
Harland Miller, III, Esq. Vermont Bar Association (First American Title Insurance), Secretary
Mark Reaves, VT Department of Buildings and General Services
Hunter Rieseberg, Town Manager, Town of Hartford
William Smith, Esq, Vermont Bar Association, Vice Chair & Treasurer
II. Executive Summary
Vermont Municipal Land Records Commission (the Commission) is a broadly based
compris ed of
municipal government, banking, title insurance, and real estate industry representatives.
mission is to improve the management and accessibility of Land
through the use of emerging technologies. Its goal is to establish statewide
remote access to all of Vermont’s municipal land records.
New and better systems of indexing, accessing,
recording, and preserving land
the standard throughout the State. To
assure municipal offices are meeting the standards and are current in their
recording practices, an
accreditation and oversight program for
municipalities should be developed. Establishing
a continuous and reliable funding source for these recommendations is critical.
The current Commissioners are all full
III Historical Background
land records are the primary governmental documentation for tracing land
ownership history in the state of Vermont. Unlike most states, Vermont, in
accordance with the provisions of Chapter II, § 62 of the
state’s constitution, requires that “ all
deeds and conveyances of lands shall be recorded in the Town Clerk’s office in
their respective towns , and
for want thereof, in the County Clerk’s office of
the same county.” The county provision’s applicability is limited to the
unorganized towns and gores.
27 V.S.A. § 602, written title can only be conveyed if there is a minimum 40
not uniform. The quality, capacity and security of storage areas var ies
widely. Local indexing systems developed separately are not often incompatible . Searching title in each municipality can prove to
be time consuming and inefficient for the consumer.
an era of high technological sophistication, searching title in most
municipalities employs the same methodology used over two centuries ago
. Due to
these conditions, which have reached crisis proportions in some municipalities,
searching title in each municipality is often time consuming and inefficient
for the consumer and has become
detrimental to Vermont’s real estate market.
impending crisis confronts the real estate industry. The rapid filling of municipal
records vaults to or beyond capacity, with exponentially increasing numbers and
types of land records, and the many problems associated with poorly maintained
municipal land records, have prompted several studies but none ha
resulted in uniform changes. Some of these efforts were under the auspices of
the Vermont Secretary of State including two reports issued in
January 1999. One is entitled “Record of the Committee on the Computerization
of Land Records” and the second was the “Condition
of Municipal Records” which reviewed in detail the problems of storage,
preservation and access across the state.
General Assembly, recognizing the increasingly serious problems associated with
municipal land records, enacted
section 49b of No.
66 of 2003 ; to establish a study committee on
standards for municipal land records. Though this committee of legislators and
professionals worked diligently and conscientiously to develop solutions, its
limited life of one legislative interim proved far too brief to attack the problems
with any degree of success.
As a result, the committee’s most significant recommendation was to
establish a longer term Commission.
IV. Commission Charges and Responses
The Commission was
directed to examine nine statutory charges.
. Each charge was
assigned to a working subcommittee. The full text of each subcommittee’s report is
included in the appendix.
The first four charges were:
Charge # 1: Propose standards for formatting, filing, recording, and preserving municipal land records.
Charge # 2: Propose a uniform system of indexing municipal land records which may include the use of numerical identifiers.
Charge # 3: Propose continuing education requirements for municipal officials and corresponding compliance requirements for municipalities.
Charge # 4: Propose incentives for municipal officials and municipalities to improve all aspects of managing and preserving municipal records.
In response to these
charges, the Commission recommends creation of a
office accreditation program to address the issues outlined in charges
As the Commission envisions, the accreditation program would operate as
(1) Municipalities wishing to attain accreditation would be required to:
Adhere to the “Best Practice Standards for Indexing Land Record Instruments” which
should be updated at least annually in order to remain current and timely ;
Adopt continuing education plans for all employees who are responsible for
managing the land records that affect the marketability of title.
Adopt records preservation and conservation plans ; and
Provide for the physical security and safety of the land records.
professional records and information manager (RIM) is needed to develop the
accreditation criteria and conduct office inspections as part of the
accreditation process. The RIM would operate under the
(3) A new grant
program would provide financial incentives for municipal offices to achieve
accreditation criteria or to maintain an already accredited local program. The
RIM would make recommendations for grant awards. For a specified period
years), all municipal land record offices would be eligible for
the management of their land records. Following the initial phase, the only
eligible grant recipients would be accredited municipalities.
(4) In order to finance,
on an ongoing basis, the R
proposing drawing on one percent of the property transfer tax revenue
(estimated at $420,000 to
$120,000 per year leaving at least $300,000 for direct
grants to municipalities.
(5) The Commission believes that title insurers and municipal liability insurers will assess accredited municipalities as lower risks.
(6) The Municipal
Land Records Commission
believes that mandatory standards for municipalities are preferable to a
voluntary accreditation program. However, the commission is proceeding realistically
and proposing the voluntary program. However, the
hopes that over time a successful voluntary program will result in the
adoption of mandatory standards. The , over a period of years, of
a parcel identification system. Initially, the system would supplement the historic
indexing system. In the longer run, the commission
hopes that the parcel system will be converted more easily to digital format
and will facilitate more efficient intellectual and physical access to the
Charge #5 Propose a system for financing all facets of municipal land records management on a sustainable basis.
The Commission recognizes four potential
sources of revenue to finance municipal land records management
fees financed by the users of the records including access
and other fees , and
iv) Property transfer
tax revenue, the revenue for which comes from the creators and users of the
and distributed to the towns in the form of grants.
The Commission recommends a combination of the
, and for administration of the
accreditation and training programs.
-per to implement the commission’s
the grants would provide the needed additional funds. A portion of the fees
would be placed in a local reserve fund to be used only for the accreditation
process, following guidelines the Commission would establish. This would
broaden but standardize the use of the current per page preservation fee that
most (but not all) municipalities have established. Following an
in-depth study of all costs associated with recording, preserving, and managing
land records, the Commission will recommend changes to the fee schedule as
Charge #6: Analyze the prerequisites for a municipality to digitalize its land records and examines the related administrative and public policy issues.
The Commission did not
undertake to explore
the digitization of land records since the legislature created a separate study
committee and pilot project for that purpose.
Charge #7: Analyze the need for any future oversight of the recommended uniform standards.
Commission Response: The Commission will continue to monitor and refine the standards that are developed for the accreditation process.
Charge # 8 Analyze how to balance the conflicting public policy objectives of protecting personal privacy and providing public access to municipal land records.
Commission Response: The Commission has deferred
temporarily any specific recommendations on privacy
At present, the
release of social security
numbers and other governmentally assigned numbers appearing on the computer social
54b of Act
71 of 2005, the General Assembly established The
Social Security Number Usage Study Commission “to study the usage of Social
Charge # 9 Analyze any other administrative or public policy issues related to the uniformity and modernization of municipal land records which the Commission may decide to address.
Commission Response: The
Commission recognizes the existence of other issues associated with municipal
land records that it has not addressed in depth, and the
will address other related issues as they arise.
(1) The Commission has
concluded that the implementation of
will require the services of a (2) The Commission has managed its
activities on a limited budget. The Commission requests that the General
Assembly authorize carrying forward the balance of its current appropriation
through fiscal year 2007. It is also requesting increased funding
would finance the records management professional, associated administrative
costs for both the professional staff position and the commission ,
and the municipal grants program.
VI. Statutory Authority
In accordance with
78a of No. 122 of 2003 (Adj. Sess. )
the General Assembly created Chapter 135 of Title 24 entitled ,
Vermont Municipal Land Records Commission. The Commission was granted a six
CHAPTER 135. VERMONT MUNICIPAL
LAND RECORDS COMMISSION
§ 5401. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Municipal land records are of vital importance to the economy and history of Vermont. This chapter establishes a municipal land records commission to address the significant long-term and systemic managerial issues associated with these documents, including a study to determine whether paper documents should be stored and available in an electronic format.
§ 5402. DEFINITIONS
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Commission” means the Vermont municipal land records commission created in section 5403 of this title.
(2) “Municipal” means a city, town, unorganized town, incorporated village, or gore.
(3) “Municipal land record” means a document required to establish marketable title and which is filed or recorded in the records of a municipality, including all documents filed or recorded pursuant to section 1154 of this title.
§ 5403. MUNICIPAL LAND RECORDS COMMISSION; CREATION AND
(a) There is created the Vermont municipal land records commission which shall be attached to the office of the secretary of state for administrative purposes and whose appointed members shall serve for three-year terms, except for initial terms as provided for in subsection (b) of this section.
(b) The commission shall consist of the state archivist, the commissioner of buildings and general services, and the commissioner of information and innovation, or their designees. In addition, the governor shall appoint three municipal clerks, with one representing municipalities with a population of greater than 10,000 residents for an initial term of two years, one representing municipalities with a population of greater than 3,000 residents but fewer than 10,000 residents for an initial term of three years, and one representing municipalities with a population of fewer than 3,000 residents for an initial term of four years; one licensed land surveyor to be recommended by the Vermont Society of Land Surveyors for an initial term of three years; two licensed attorneys to be recommended by the Vermont Bar Association, one of whom shall be familiar with real estate title practices for an initial term of two years and one of whom shall be a representative of the title insurance industry for an initial term of four years; one paralegal to be recommended by the Vermont Paralegal Organization for an initial term of three years; one municipal zoning administrator to be recommended by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for an initial term of three years; one municipal legislator or chief municipal administrative officer to be recommended by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for a term of two years; one banker jointly recommended by the Vermont Bankers Association and the Vermont Mortgage Bankers Association for an initial term of four years; one lister or assessor to be recommended by the Vermont Association of Listers and Assessors for an initial term of four years; and one licensed real estate broker to be recommended by the Vermont Association of Realtors for a term of two years.
(c) The designated organizations shall submit their recommendations for commission members to the governor on or before July 31, 2004, and the governor shall appoint the members of the commission by September 15, 2004. In appointing individuals to this commission, the governor shall seek geographic diversity.
(d) The state archivist shall convene the first commission meeting no later than November 1, 2004, at which meeting the commission shall designate a chair and vice chair. The governor shall designate a chair and vice chair if the commission has failed to so designate by the 30th day following its first meeting.
(e) The members of the commission who are not employees of the state of Vermont shall be entitled to per diem compensation as provided in section 1010 of Title 32.
Sec. 78c. VERMONT MUNICIPAL LAND RECORDS COMMISSION;
(a) On or before January 15, 2006, the Vermont municipal land records commission shall submit a report to the general assembly that:
(1) Proposes standards for formatting, filing, recording, and preserving municipal land records.
(2) Proposes a uniform system of indexing municipal land records which may include the use of numerical identifiers.
(3) Proposes continuing education requirements for municipal officials and corresponding compliance requirements for municipalities.
(4) Proposes incentives for municipal officials and municipalities to improve all aspects of managing and preserving municipal records.
(5) Proposes a system for financing all facets of municipal land records management on a sustainable basis.
(6) Analyzes the prerequisites for a municipality to digitalize its land records and examines the related administrative and public policy issues.
(7) Analyzes the need for any future oversight of the recommended uniform standards.
(8) Analyzes how to balance the conflicting public policy objectives of protecting personal privacy and providing public access to municipal land records.
(9) Analyzes any other administrative or public policy issues related to the uniformity and modernization of municipal land records which the commission may decide to address.
(b) In making its report on January 15, 2006, and in conducting its study thereafter, the commission shall take into consideration the results of the ongoing pilot project in the five municipalities that was authorized by H.767, the 2004 Capital Construction Bill.
Sec. 78d. AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS
(a) Any amount remaining at the end of fiscal year 2004 in the appropriation made to the study committee on municipal records in Sec. 49b(e) of No. 66 of the Acts of 2003 shall be transferred to the office of the secretary of state and made available for the use of the Vermont municipal land records commission during fiscal years 2005 and 2006.
Sec. 78e. APPROPRIATION
(a) Of the funds appropriated to the office of the secretary of state in Sec. 78 of this act, the amount of $30,000.00 in general funds shall be allocated to the Vermont municipal land records commission for administrative and research services, including the hiring of staff or consultants. Any funds remaining at the end of fiscal year 2005 shall carry forward into fiscal year 2006.
Sec. 78f. REPEAL
(a) Secs. 78a (24 V.S.A. chapter 135) and 78b (32 V.S.A. § 1010(a)(31)) of this act are repealed as of August 31, 2010.