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District of Columbia: Address Confidentiality Act of 2018

Posted By USFN, Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2018

October 17, 2018

by John Ansell
Rosenberg & Associates, LLC – USFN Member (District of Columbia)

The District of Columbia recently passed legislation that may affect the ability of servicers and lenders to adequately assess title on certain properties in the District. The new statute (the Address Confidentiality Act of 2018) became effective October 1, 2018; it is designed to protect victims of domestic violence.

According to the terms of the Act, if an individual applies for the program and is certified as a victim of stalking, domestic violence, human trafficking, or a range of sexual offenses, the individual will be issued an identification card with a substitute address. The substitute address will be a mailbox to which mail will be sent, and from which the office that administers the program will forward mail to the program participant’s actual address.

From a real property title perspective, a participant in the program can submit a request to any D.C. government office or agency to remove all publicly accessible references to their actual address. This means that a participant may have their name removed from all publicly available land records, tax records, and court records. This can present challenges for the title industry, as well as loan originators and servicers. Thus far, D.C. has not provided crucial details. Namely, there is no indication yet of whether the redacted information will simply be absent, or whether mention will be made that the information is being withheld pursuant to this program. Consequently, a title search may come back with documents simply missing; e.g., a deed or deed of trust just not showing up in a title search, or the lack of a tax record appearing when performing an escrow analysis. Alternatively, the search results may reflect some notice that the information is being omitted, with or without explanation.

A further complication is that, as currently written, the statute does not allow program participants to selectively direct the release of information. Their only choice appears to be to remove themselves entirely from the program, hardly the route that persons fearing for their safety would choose. Overall, the potential implications of this statute upon title searches are significant, and until D.C. provides more information as to how such matters will be handled, the state of title in the District will remain uncertain.

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