Do you ever wonder why title companies are so picky at closings about such seemingly inconsequential things? Why they are so concerned with what your middle initial is, your addresses for the last 10 years and with obtaining two (2) forms of picture id? Why so many closings are delayed or postponed or don’t occur at all because a title company raises an issue that seems minor or trivial? I just read a case that may help shed some light on why everything is so closely investigated by title companies and how things still manage to slip through the cracks. It was the case of Brown v. Mohammed, (2011 NY Slip Op 50847(U)[31 Misc 3d 1225(A)] and the facts were approximately as follows:
George Alston, his wife, Agnes Alston, and Selma Gunther-Brown, sold their house located at 285 East 55th Street, Brooklyn, NY on March 23rd, 2007. The Sellers appeared at the closing, paid all of their closing expenses and had checks issued by the bank attorney in the amount of $415,337.46 solely in the name of Mr. Alston. He then took these checks three days later to a certain attorney and endorsed them to the attorney who then deposited them into his escrow account. Mr. Alston asked this attorney to release the funds to third party and the funds were eventually released upon Mr. Alson giving his written consent to such release.
So what’s the problem? That the funds were only paid to 1 of the 3 sellers? That the funds were eventually given to a third party? That this was done through a different attorney and not the attorney who did the closing? No. The problem is that Mr. Alson had actually died on January 26th, 2001, more than 6 years before the closing and someone had shown up to the closing pretending to be him. Actually, it’s worse than that. If you access the ACRIS website under Block 4703, Lot 50 in Kings County, the last entry you will see is something that is quite singular and chilling. Indeed, I have not seen it anywhere else on ACRIS. It is an affidavit from the Assistant Commissioner of the New York City Department of Finance and reads as follows, in pertinent part:
...we have been advised that George Alston passed away in 2001
and neither Agnes Alston nor Selma Gunter-Brown signed the deed.
If you visit the ACRIS site and look at a copy of the deed referred to, you will see that all three were supposedly at the closing and that their signatures were notarized. It is clear from this affidavit, which is indexed against the records of the property, that all 3 weren't actually at the closing.
So the next time you go to a closing and the title closer closely scrutiizes your id, you will know why.