The Register of Deeds office is located at the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason, Mi on the
Above: Derrick Quinney, Ingham County Register of Deed By Chris Trubac
MASON, MI -- The door to the register of deeds’ office is always open, yet surprisingly few people know what goes on inside.
As a staff of eight document recording professionals type away on keyboards and assist members of the public at the office’s front counter, current register Derrick Quinney supervises his team proudly.
“I came into this job looking to do a few things,” said Quinney, who was appointed to the office in 2015 and won reelection the following year. “One of my main goals was to get more people informed about what the government is doing for them.”
Register Quinney works behind an antique desk in the Ingham County Courthouse, an historic building constructed in 1904. As an elected official, his primary responsibility is to ensure the accurate recording of legal documents related to the ownership, transfer and encumbrance of real property, i.e. land.
That means whenever a house is sold or a piece of land is inherited, for example, new documents need to be submitted to the office for recording.
The office also stores documents representing mortgage agreements, lien orders and rights to certain natural resources. In total, there are more than 500 types of documents that can be recorded.
Office staff check submitted documents for recording requirements, enter them into the system, and the information recorded goes on to become a part of the public record. This public information helps to prove ownership or interest in a piece of property should a dispute arise.
But as straightforward as the job may sound, it’s not unusual for staff members to hear requests that fall outside of their job descriptions.
“People come in with all kinds of expectations,” Quinney said, referring to the hundreds of residents who visit and call each month asking for legal advice.
“Visitors tend to lack a lot of in-depth knowledge on real estate law, but our hands are tied when folks need legal help,” Quinney explained. ‘Legal help’ includes assistance with completing forms, or even explaining which forms are best for certain situations.
In addition to liability issues, the register of deeds’ office is bound by Michigan’s Public Act 236 of 1961, which restricts the office from behaving as legal counsel.
Quinney said his staff have had to turn away their share of agitated residents confused about what he calls the “legal red tape” of real estate transfers.
However, Quinney was quick to point out that his office is always eager to help people find the help they need. For example, staff are able to recommend phone lines that offer free legal assistance to qualifying residents of Ingham County. These services can help with everything from property transfers to comprehensive estate planning.
At the same time, Quinney is doing his best to bring information and various services to the communities he serves. He has spent much of his summer supporting various hometown festivals and other community events. He and his staff distribute publications designed to spread awareness on a range of topics related to property ownership and renters’ issues, as well as state, county and local government.
Quinney is also preparing to give a series of talks on estate planning and fraud prevention, among other topics. He hopes that these presentations will help provide people with the information they need to avoid difficult situations down the road.
“It’s been my goal to make government more accessible for people, and that means getting out and talking face-to-face,” Quinney said. “I’ve had a blast making new friends in neighborhoods from Lansing to Stockbridge.”
Quinney said it’s all part of being a public servant—carrying out “good deeds every day.”
Chris Trubac serves as an administrative assistant to the register of deeds, handling communications, outreach and public relations. He can be reached at (517) 676-7260, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Printed in the August 6, 2017 - August 19, 2017 edition