Chris Christie Signs Bill Requiring NJ Counties to E-Record

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County recorders in New Jersey will now be required to accept electronic documents, following the recent enactment of a bill to modernize the land recording process.

The law redefines the terms "document" and "recorded" to include electronic documents and electronic image storage. It also streamlines how county recorders store the various documents they record, which include mortgages, deeds and associated assignments, discharges and releases.

The law calls on New Jersey's Division of Archives and Records Management to establish statewide guidelines for the format and technical requirements of recorded documents "to foster state-wide uniformity in title recordation," within 12 months of its passing. Assembly Bill 2565 was introduced in March 2010 and passed by the state legislature in Jan. 2012. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed it into law on Jan. 17.

The law gives counties five years to adopt e-doc capabilities, though some New Jersey counties already use e-recording technology and processes, following the passage of the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce, or ESIGN, Act in 2000 and New Jersey's version of the state-level Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, enacted in 2001.

"While the use of electronic deeds and mortgages is not expected to occur in the near term, both ESIGN and UETA encourage the development of systems that will accept electronic documents without disrupting the ongoing process of title recordation," the legislature said in a joint statement by the Assembly's Housing and Local Government Committee and the Senate's Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

The statement also notes the importance of having a law that can easily adapt to changes in technology and the need for uniformity across the state's 21 counties to make it easier for people and companies that file documents to comply with the state law.

"It must be acknowledged, however, that conventional paper documents will continue to be recorded for the foreseeable future. This revision is a first step toward balancing the need to use technological advances where appropriate, with the recognition that it is not appropriate to mandate an immediate switch to the latest technological development."

According to the Property Records Industry Association, more than 700 of the approximately 3,100 counties and county equivalents in the United States currently utilize e-recording technology.

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