Don’t Pay For Free Documents Or Overpay For Services

Beware of offers to sell you services you don’t need, or documents to which you are already entitled!

Numerous clients along the lakeshore recently have reported being approached by companies offering to sell copies of certain documents, especially deeds related to recent real estate transactions. Companies offer to provide these documents at a cost of around $80.

In a similar vein, Cunningham Dalman recently received a solicitation from a company in Lansing offering to “help” us file our annual corporate registration. The state charges $25 for annual registration; this company wanted $125 for the privilege of filing on our behalf. This is a form most of our clients file themselves and usually requires only a box to be checked and the form signed in the correct place.

While charging for completing the form is not illegal, it verges on misrepresentation, in that the company has enclosed a blank annual report form and does its best to appear to be a branch of the government. The official annual report form is provided to each corporation and LLC by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs–Corporations Division for free.

Public documents, such as recorded deeds, are available directly to consumers without “help” from these third-party companies. If you need real help filing government documents, hire a qualified attorney or an accountant. You should receive a recorded deed either from your attorney or the closing company that handled the real estate deal. All the other information is available online for free or for a small fee.

Individuals and business owners are being taken advantage of by these unscrupulous solicitors. This practice—selling public documents—is not illegal, but takes advantage of business owners and individuals who may be unfamiliar with the intricacies of Michigan law.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued warnings about this practice. “What many of the solicitations conveniently neglect to mention is that you can usually obtain certified copies of governmental records, such as deeds on your home, directly from your local, county, or state government for a nominal fee,” Schuette said. When it comes to obtaining government records, he said, “Get them from the government, not a third party.”

If you receive such a solicitation and would like to file a complaint about it, notify Schuette’s office.

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