Friday, July 23, 2010

Photocopies = Housing Fund?

Stuff like this drives me crazy.

In my work, I often have to get copies of the deeds and easements of record that encumber a property. My current project is an acquisition of easements on 39 parcels on a run in Lorain County, Ohio. I get these documents because they detail any potential conflicts for the areas of land I am trying to gain rights to.

I'm a captive audience. I have to pay the fee, whatever it is, because I need the information.

In my home state of Indiana, copies are $1/page for deeds. In Ohio? They are $2/page.

Does it intrinsically cost more to make a copy in Ohio than in Indiana? Of course not. Look at the itemization on the receipt:

That extra dollar goes into something called the 'Ohio Housing Trust Fund'. Well, isn't that nice. Here I am, coming to get documents, not even an Ohio resident, and I am taxed to pay for someone's housing in Ohio. If this isn't taxation without representation, I don't know what is.

I guess I can console myself in the knowledge that Cook County Illinois (Chicago) charges $10/page. Yes, that's right 1-0, ten dollars per page. It used to be $50! No kidding. Apparently, Cook County figured out that for that money, you'll go to the title companies for copies, since they have extensive files in-house. The heavens only know what that money is going towards there. But to record a document in Cook County, they nail on a $10 fee for support of rental housing. Anything these governments can do to redistribute wealth, they will do.

I can also console myself that I am reimbursed on this cost. So, get off it, right? Well, that cost is passed on to my client, a utility, who will then pass the cost on to you, the consumer. This is about as hidden a tax as I can think of. It will never show up on any balance sheet. So many ways the state finds to make doing business more expensive- for a good cause, sure- but more expensive all the same.


Doug said...

I feel you on this one. I remember going round-and-round with a clerk of a county court charging me $18 for an 18 page chronological case summary in a case I was working. I knew the default rate for county documents was something like $0.10/page but hadn't seen the statute which authorized the $1/page.

But government isn't the only one in on this; try getting medical records sometime:

$20 for any records, pages 1-10; $.50/page for 11-50; and $.25/page above 50.

What made me chuckle a bit when I went into a hospital for personal records was a sign or flyer or something that didn't exactly lie, but left you with the impression that the pricing was compelled by the Indiana Administrative Code when, in fact, these are maximum prices. But, that's a little known result of some price caps - they act as magnets.

Mike Kole said...

Quite aware of the effects price caps have, unfortunately, in more areas than just photocopies. If a procedure really costs $100, and the cap allows for $500, the new cost is $500.

This is something that the health care law did not address, and in my feeble opinion, might be one of the biggest potential cost savings available. I don't know how you solve the problem with more law, but I do see that health insurance itself is the problem.