service companies when a home mortgage is paid off, make up nearly 50 percent of the 1,400 or more documents that pass through the Recorder's Office every day.

Now Salt Lake and other counties that automated recording of lien release forms -- high-volume, easy-to-process documents -- are seeing a range of benefits, including:

ofaster processing,

olower costs,

oimproved productivity,

ofewer data entry errors,

ofewer problems with document fraud, and

oless worker injury from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Salt Lake and a few other counties use level-three electronic recording, in which the lien release is generated electronically using a combination of XML data and HTML formatting. It is digitally signed, transmitted over the Internet and received by the recorder's computer system, where it is recorded automatically and stored as a TIFF file.

The problem is that process only works for simple documents, such as a lien release. Other documents recorded by counties contain hundreds of data fields, according to Jeff Carlson, CEO for US Recordings Inc., which has a level three product called InteleDoc Plus for counties that want to record lien release type forms.

"Our software has taken a 45-day process and reduced it to a two-minute wait," he said.

Carlson notes, however, that the lien release form is a straightforward document for computers to process, and dozens or more releases can be signed by an officer at one time. It's far different from mortgages, which require a unique signer for each document.

"That's why there has been renewed interest in using level-two recordings for mortgages," he said. "Level-three recordings require the industry to define hundreds of data fields for a single document, which have to be standardized."

Level two recordings are hybrids of document imaging and XML. Many county recorders installed imaging systems to scan, store and retrieve document images, costing far less than existing paper-based systems. By upgrading their systems to accept images of documents that were electronically signed and encrypted with XML data, they can use fully electronic recordings without replacing their existing technology.

Counties also are installing solutions that deal with internally processed documents. Broward County, Fla., uses software from APTItude Solutions to manage liens generated by the county's courts. The software allows court-generated liens to flow automatically to the county Records Division, where they are electronically recorded into the system.

"The solution makes sense for Broward because 20 to 25 percent of their recordings happen internally," said Rumsey. "Less than 2 percent of their recordings are recorded electronically from the outside."

Like others in the industry, Rumsey believes it will be years before the mortgage industry and county recorders are ready to deal electronically with documents more complex than lien releases. Slowing adoption is the complexity of mortgage documents and the requirement for a robust, decentralized identity management infrastructure to handle security, say industry observers.

But there are others who think e-recording will take off soon.

"It's no longer a cost issue," said St. Louis County's Monacelli. "We're going to see expansion in 2004 and 2005. The biggest holdback right now is lack of acceptance of e-recording among mortgage companies, not county recorders."

Tod Newcombe  |  Features Editor