At least three of Ohio’s 88 counties are violating Ohio law by charging subscriptions for online access to free public records.
That has prompted the state auditor to examine all county recorders more closely, The Enquirer has learned.
The subscriptions were designed for banks, title companies, mortgage brokerages and law firms, which are able to pay – or charge their clients – the fees. Those heavy users of public records, which incur costs allowed by law for copies obtained in person, sought a flat online subscription fee.
Even if they were legal, the subscriptions established by county recorders create prohibitive costs for individual online records searches, such as those by individual homeowners accessing records about their own property. A county recorder’s office is responsible for maintaining records of property deeds and mortgages, among other documents.
Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties do not charge for online access, while Warren County does not post documents online.
State Auditor Dave Yost told The Enquirer that county recorders do not have the authority to charge online fees for viewing or copying documents. Once created, online documents must be offered to the public for free, he said.