Prior to the age of the Internet, specific information about real estate, such as who owned the property, what mortgages were attached to it and what taxes were owed, could only be obtained by physically examining the County Clerk's records. While this could be done by an attorney or even a lay person, few had the requisite expertise or time to do so and typically a title insurance company would be paid a fee to conduct a search and prepare a report containing the information required.
In today’s Internet Age, however, all of this valuable information is often available online and at no cost! All five counties of New York City and certain other counties have already developed databases, available to the public, which enables online access to the County’s real estate records. The following websites are currently available online:
New York City
A.C.R.I.S. (Automated City Register Information System)
Search property records: Copies of the last Deed of Record, prior Deeds, Mortgages, Assignments of Mortgages, UCCs and Federal Tax Liens may be viewed and downloaded.
Find Section, Block and Lot Numbers: Block and Lot Numbers may be obtained for any property simply by inputting the property address.
Real Estate Tax Exemptions: Homeowners, as well as business owners, are able to determine their eligibility for any real estate tax exemptions available to them in order to reduce their property taxes.
New York City Taxes: Real estate tax and water/sewer bills and delinquencies may be viewed.
Judgments: NYC Parking Violations Bureau, Environmental Control Board Violations, Department of Health Violations and Department of Consumer Affairs Violations may be viewed and paid online.
Calculate Taxes: Transfer taxes and Mortgage tax (including NYC Transfer tax) may be viewed online.
While Suffolk County’s database provides the recording information for Deeds, Mortgages, Assignments of Mortgages, UCCs and Federal Tax Liens, copies of these documents cannot be downloaded. Additionally, unlike ACRIS, Suffolk County’s database does not provide Section, Block and Lot Numbers, Real Estate Tax Exemptions, Real Estate Taxes, Judgments, Environmental Control Board Violations, etc.
Suffolk County’s database does, however, provide certain information that is unavailable on ACRIS, such as the ability to search for Business Certificates or to determine the date a corporation was formed.
Similar to Suffolk, Westchester’s database provides recording information for Deeds, Mortgages, Assignments of Mortgages, UCCs and Federal Tax Liens, but, unlike Suffolk, they will also provide, at a nominal charge, copies of these documents. Also, similarly to Suffolk, Westchester does not provide Section, Block and Lot Numbers, Real Estate Tax Exemptions, Real Estate Taxes, Judgments, Environmental Control Board Violations, etc.
In summary, New York City’s ACRIS system provides free copies of documents; Westchester’s system provides free information and copies of documents for a fee, and Suffolk’s system provides information only, but no copies of any documents.
Real estate purchasers and Mortgage Servicers can also utilize these websites to determine, in real time, if Deeds, Mortgages, Assignments of Mortgages, or other instruments, have been recorded.
It is expected that more and more of these types of websites will develop as time goes by and our world continues to adapt to the new era of the Internet. If you have any questions about them, feel free to call me. Better yet, text!