crown CU Home > Libraries Home
[x] Close window

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections: The Real Estate Record

Use your browser's Print function to print these pages.

The Record and guide: v. 35, no. 894: May 2, 1885: Supplement

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031138_001_00000487

Text version:

Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
THE RECORD AND GUIDE. MAY ?, 1885—No 894. LAND TRANSFER REFORM, THE MAJORITY AND MINORITY REPORTS OF THE LAND TRANSFER COMMISSION GIVEN VERBATIM. Majority Report of Commissioners of Land Transfers. DATED APRIL 15th, 1885. (TABLK ANn ORnSRED PRINTED.) TO THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK. The Commissioners of Land Transfer appointed under the Act of May '2\st, 1884, respectf idly report as follows: The act authorizing the appointment of the Commission was passed May 21st, 1884, and the Commissioners appointed July 2d following. As the members of the Commission were not all in the city until early Fall, formal meetings could not be held until then. By the terms of its appointment the authoi-ity of the Commission was limited to the recommendation of reforms in real estate transfer for cities of not le-'s than three hundred thousand inhabitauts (t. e. New York City and Brooklyn), with power, if it should see fit, to confine its reconuuendations to New York City. At the outset of its deliberations it was determined that attention should be given to the preparation of a bill or bills intended to change the methods of transferring and keeping the records and indices relating to real estate in the city of New York only, afterwards to the suggestion of such other reforms in the body of the law relating to the title to and lieus upon real estate, as might more properly be applicable to the entire State and which the Commission might regard as desirable, but which neither the powers given it nor the time to which its labors would be restricted would make it fitting or enable it to mature. FuUy realizing the danger of hastily unsettling the principles of real estate law, the Commission has in the main devoted itself to the machinery of transferring titles and keeping the records of transfers and liens, intro¬ ducing only Buch changes iu the law as were incidental to the new system and necessary to its successful operation. The evils of the present system of transfer in the city of New York, have been too long the theme of comment in the profession and among owners of real estate to need extended mention in this report. The facts that the number of volumes in the Register's office containing the records of conveyances and mortgages is now nearly four thousand, of which nearly seven-eighths have been added during the last fifty years; that the only method of ascertaining the title of any particular lot is by search¬ ing for and examining every instrument executed by the successive oivners of such lot from written indices containmg thousands of names, with many errors in spelling aud otherwise, that such an examination requires a long time, increasing with every year, and would even now be almost impracti¬ cable without the aid of private classified indices and abstracts made oy the official searchers for theu' own use ; that, in case of th» removal or destruc¬ tion of these private papei*s, the examination of titles could be attained only after immense labor—are sufficient to show that the present system i? too burdensome and dangerous to be longer continued. The uncertainty attending examinations under such a system, the length of time required, the expense cast upon the owner of real estate and tbe responsibility imposed upon the lawyers seemed to the Commission to render its radical reform the most pressing question to be met. The members of the Commission were unanimously of the opinion that such reform, to the proper extent, could only be effected by indexing instru¬ ments tiffecting real estate, not merely against the name, but against the property conveyed or charged, and making liens on real estate specific, affecting only the property described therein, and so indexing them. Two forms of inde.x were pi'oposed; one an index by lots and the other by blocks. A fter an extended discussion of the advantages of these forms respectively, four of the flve members of the Commis.sion decided in favor of the lot system, and have prepared a bill for indexing transfers and liens upon that system. The division of opinion of this point requires that the reasons which induced the preference of the majority of the Commission should be stated somewhat at large. They believed that any new system should be not merely a temporary remedy for existing evils, which, in its turn, should become a burden, but one which, in its nature, would require no re-arrangement in the future, whatever might be the growth of the city or the increase in real estate transactions—one of which should not merely mitigate defects, but remove them. They believe that any new system should be of such a character as, when in the course of time it shall have borne its fruits, will relieve real ■estate from the burden and uncertainty of searches, and render its transfer more expeditious, and should be so simple in its form and methods as to reduce the chances ot error to a minimum. These requisites of simplicity, celerity, certainty, economy and perman- nency they were satisfied would be realized more fully under the lot system than any other. The lot being the ordinary unit of ownership on which taxes have for years been laid and collected with ease and certainty, fonns the simplest basis for an index, and if the transfer of and liens on each lot are kept by themselves, the addition of any amount of territory will add pages to the index, but will require no change in the system, nor increase the labor of flnding the papers affecting any lot. Such a system w3l grow simpler indeed as time passes for as the city becomes pei'manently improved, as the boundaries of lots become perma¬ nently fixed by being built upon, even the slight inconvenience which may attend the changes in lines of vacant lots will cease to exist. On the other hand, an index by blocks while at the outset it would be less confusing and burthensome than the present system by reducing the extent of territory over which a search must be made must become more and more complex with time since the continually accumulating transfers of and liens on an average of at least sixty-four lots are entered in one place. This, from the very introduction of the system, would necessitate a search shorter than the search now reqviired, but still a search subject to the errors and uncertainties and expenses ot the present system, though to a leas extant. The lot system absolutely puta an end to searching all entries affecting a lot or any pai't of it; being requiied to be made on the page or pages or that lot, a certified copy of the page gives all the information we now derive from a search in a very much shorter time and substantially without expense, andthe correctness of the information is a mere qnestion o€ tho correctness of the ropy. And such certified copy, unlike our present searches, will be an original in any hands. The simplicity of the lot system and its freedom from chances of error will appear when we examice briefly tie method of indexing mider it. To know where any instrument shall be indexed and cause it to be so indexed requires only that tbe person who desires its record shall inspect tbe maps of the block on which tbe property is situated note the lot or lots thereou which eu.brace the property, and direct that the instru¬ ment shall be indexed against such lot or lots. To the Register is giveu the simple and purely ministerial duty of enter¬ ing a memorandum on the page or pages of tne lot or lots designated. Should this entry be erroneous in every particular except the liber and page of record, the instrument could s; ill be readily foimd; should it be erroneous in all respects, there would still be sufficient notice of some transaction affecting the property to put auy one de; 1 ng therewith on enquiiy. The most frequent error occuring under the present system is in the names of the parties ;;this would be of r.o material consequence under the lot system, while the block system fs li; b'.e to Ihe same error, only to be avoided by an examinati. n of all the entriis under a block. It must be constantly bt rne in mind that the system advocated by the majority of the Commission contemplates an index—nothing more—an easy and accurate method of finding the papers relating to any particular piece of real estate. It asserts nothing as to ownei-ship, but simply shows what transfers have been made of, or what liens have been created against a lot, as shown on a map or any part of it. If the lot so shown only repre- I seuts part of the lot under examinalion, we have only to examine the pages ^ of all lots which contain its other parts until such time, as by change of the ■ map, one lot shall correctly appear thereon as a wlole. I Whatever additional detail may be involved in putting the lot system into operation, it is nevertheless perfectly simple, and would be more than coun¬ terbalanced by the increased advantages to be derived from it when once tn j operation. I A brief outline of the chief features of the bill proposed seems proper. I It is proposed that all the blocks in the city shall be numbered continu¬ ously from one up, commencing with some block in the lower part of the city—that a set of books shall be prepared in triplicate to be arranged as follows : Commencing with block one, a map of that block as divided into lots taken from the tax maps, the lots numbered from one up, to be pre¬ fixed to the portions of the Land Register Index devoted to the block and at the head of succeeding page the number of one of the lots in t'le block in regular order with sufflcient blank pages at the end for carrying over full pages, or entering any new lot which may be carved out of the old ones. After these blank imges a map of block number two and its lot with blank pages, and so on. Two sets of these books are to be deposited in the Register's office—one for the indexing of instruments recorded in the books of conveyances, and the other for indexing instruments recorded in the books of mortgages, and tbe third set is depositetl in the County Clerk's office for the indexing of notices of lis pendens and judgments and liens and other instruments affecting real estate filed iu that office. The preparation of these indices and the superintendance of them after the system goes into opei-ation is entrusted to an officer to be known as the Superintendent of the Land Register Index, who is to be a counsellor at law, and a deputy superintendent who is to be a city surveyor. A period of a little more than a year is given for the preparation and deposit of these indices, and, that the public may be faraiUarized with the main featm-e of the system, the act is not to go into operation until sixty days after the indices have been so prepared and deposited in the respective offices. Every person desiring to record an instrument is required tn order to entitle it to be recorded to have it state in the body thereof, or to designate in a separate instrument as may sometimes be necessary, the number ot the block and lot or lots claimed to be affected by such instrument. The index of a transfer is to be made by a brief entry in one line stating liber and page, where recorded, on the page ot each lot designated as affected thereby. Changes in any lot are to be made in the flrst instance on the tax maps, and once a year the Tax Commisioners ai-e to certify to the Superintendent of the Land Register Index all such changes which have beeu made down to a certain fixed date in each year, and the Superintendent is to enter thera upon the Land Register Index. WLen the changes in any block are suffi¬ ciently numerous to require it, the Superiutendent is authorized to cause a new map of such block to be made. When tbe boundaries of any lot are changed the page ot the lot is to be closed and a new page opened for the new lot, with references on the respec¬ tive pages, showing from what page or pages the new lot is derived, and to what new page or pages the old lot is transferiecl. Provision is made tor the entry on the Land Register Index ot new blocks which may be from time to time formed by cutting up old ones or otherwise. As to that portion of the district lying north ot Harlem River, known as the annexed district, which is not yet laid out in blocks, the index is to be made with reference to the plots laid down on the tax maps, and under the provisions of the bill when the new blocks are formed they will fall into their proper places on the index. It is further provided that the more important and numerous of the notices, liens or other insti-uments requii-ed to be filed iu the County Clerk's office which are intended to affect real estate, shall contain a description by block and lot number of the real estate claimed to be so affectedj or that a certificate of the party asserting or claiming under such notice, lien or other instrument containing such designation annexed to the notice, lien or other instrument, or a certified copy ot it, shall be so filed before any real estate shall be affected thereby. Upon the filing ot such notice, lien or certificate it is to be entered upon the Land Register Index of liens. Mechanic's liens being now indexed against the property affected not touched by the bills recommended. The Commission has also prepared and herewith submits a bill requiring judgments to be made specihc instead of general liens on real estate in the city of New York, and a bill transferring to the Register's office the neces¬ sary records or memoranda of the mortgages in the county of New York by the Commissioners for loamng the United States deposit funds under the act of 1837, so as to avoid for the future the necessity of a separate search in the Loan Commissioner's office for such mortgages, and a bill requiring the making and keeping, in the office ot the Clerk of Arrears of the city of New York, of an index of all outstanding taxes and assessments and water rents, and ot all sales for non-payment of taxes, assessments or water rents remaining unredeemed and uncancelled, properly classified by the separate lots, so that a mere inspection of such index will ascertain without any difficulty or material amount of time or labor, whether upon any pai-ticular lot there m-e any and what arrears of taxes, assessments or water rents, or outstanding tax or assessment titles, and entitling any one desiring it to