|Important Legal Records
in City Hall Basement - WTF
When I was
working in the legal field in NOLA, I would often have to go
file deeds and other documents at the Registrar of Conveyances
in the basement of City Hall. I always wondered why the hell,
in a city below sea level, real estate records would be stored
in a BASEMENT ....
This is going to be an absolute
mess to fix.....
Mortgage records may be drowned
Orleans documents are in basement
Real Estate writer
Thousands of lawyers in
the metropolitan area have lost their files, their clients and
their offices, but one of the biggest legal ramifications of
Hurricane Katrina's flooding waters is the probable loss of
real estate records dating back to the early 1800s.
The records, which include titles, mortgages,
conveyances and liens, were stored in the now-flooded basement
of City Hall on Poydras Street.
In 2002, employees of
Register of Conveyances Gasper Schiro began the tedious
process of entering the records into computers, a $700,000
process that could have been contracted out and accomplished
quickly but was instead done slowly by his staff to save
It's unclear how much of the information has
been digitized or whether the computerized information is
stored safely. If either the original records or the
digitalization is lost, it will be a major mess, said Southern
University Law Center Professor Winston Riddick, who teaches
real estate law.
While it will be a tedious process to
fix, and it can be fixed, it will be a major headache that
could take years. The records involved date back to 1827, with
the earliest recorded by hand in Spanish and French.
According to the American Center of Real Estate
Lawyers, or ACREL, the loss of the records could be
devastating to the local real estate industry.
process of restoring the information could be incredibly
tedious and create havoc for homeowners who will be filing
insurance claims, said Professor Riddick. While he expects
insurance companies to honor claims by owners who have copies
of their insurance policies, the potential for delays and
other hassles is very real.
New Orleans real estate
attorney Marx Sterbcow of Marx Sterbcow Law Group said Friday
that the loss of the records, stored in the musty, moldy
basement of City Hall, may be just the tip of the iceberg when
it comes to storm-related problems for Louisiana attorneys,
citing a memo e-mailed to Louisiana lawyers by Southern
University Law Professor Michelle Ghetti.
members have been in touch with us to express concerns for
colleagues in the region. Members have been generous with
offers of office space housing and other support," Ghetti
Real estate records aren't the only ones
affected. Ghetti estimates that as many as 6,000, or
two-thirds of the state's attorneys, have lost offices, files
and other documents critical to civil and criminal legal
cases. Several court buildings were flooded by Hurricane
Katrina, including the basement in the 5th Circuit Court of
Appeals and the Louisiana Supreme Court building.
City Hall records, Sterbcow said, "it's the mortgages that's
going to be ugly. To put it mildly, how are you going to be
able to prove if you own a piece of property if your records
are gone? How are you going to be able to prove you have a
mortgage, or one is paid off?"
Records for the 24th
Judicial District in Jefferson Parish are probably in much
better shape than the records in Orleans Parish, Sterbcow
"Jefferson Parish sounds like they're going to
be ok for mortgages and conveyances,'' he said.