Just over three weeks ago, on March 17, 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds declared a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency in Iowa. It was the first of several declarations that would be issued in the following weeks that closed businesses, limited public gatherings and took other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. County offices, including Iowa county recorders, took immediate steps to assess the situation and determine how best to maintain services. I am proud to say that every Iowa county has continued to provide services throughout this disaster.
Even when courthouse doors have been closed to public access, important documents associated with thousands of real estate transactions have continued to be recorded. County recorders have continued to process mail and many have set up drop-boxes so that customers can personally deliver documents for processing. In Iowa we are also fortunate to have a statewide electronic recording system so that business can be transacted remotely. Iowa county recorders were the first to create such a system back in 2005. The real estate industry also has online access to more than 20 million recorded documents from all 99 counties.
We appreciate the affirmation we received from the governor in a memo she sent to all counties on March 21, 2020. The governor correctly stated that the services provided by county recorders are essential and that recorders have a “central role” in the real estate industry and the larger economy. She noted that the discontinuation of our services would have “a devastating impact on Iowa.”
The national Property Records Industry Association (pria.us) recently stated that during this challenging time “it is important to focus on the critical and essential function of the recorder’s office to power, sustain and restore the U.S. economic engine.” County recorders have always known this. That is why, as this crisis continues to unfold, county recorders continue to plan and adapt as necessary. In the event that a strict “stay at home” order becomes necessary, many recorders have already begun to explore ways to continue services remotely from their homes. As one recorder in Grundy County, Iowa, I can report that our systems have been configured so that we can continue to process documents in this way.
On behalf of every elected county recorder in Iowa, we will do everything in our power to maintain services while also providing for the health and safety of our citizens and employees. For more information about the status of service in every Iowa county, visit our Coronavirus Response page.
Grundy County Recorder and President, Iowa County Recorders Association