In responds to the initial request of Senator Passidomo and with the approval of Senate President Simpson, The Office of the Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) has published their study on the impact of redaction in the Official Records. A complete report follows the summary.
A Review of Home Address Redaction Processes and Real Property Interests.
Florida has public record laws that apply to a variety of governmental documents, including those relevant to property transactions. While broad access to public records fulfills an important role, these laws can adversely affect some individuals due to their occupation or other status that puts them at increased risk of harm. As a result, s. 119.071(4)(d), Florida Statutes, allows some individuals, largely current or former government judiciary or law enforcement employees, to redact personal identifying information from public records. The spouses and children of most of these government personnel are also eligible for redaction, as are other groups such as members of the military and victims of certain crimes. The redaction ability of eligible individuals under s. 119.071(4)(d), Florida Statutes, including their spouses and their children, is applicable to property records throughout their entire lives with no requirement for renewal.
Florida’s 67 clerks of the circuit court and county comptrollers are responsible for recording official documents, including those related to property transactions. Clerks are also responsible for redacting certain information in these documents when requested by eligible individuals. Additionally, other governmental entities maintain documents with personal identifying information that qualifies for redaction. Eligible individuals must request redaction from each governmental entity that maintains personal identifying information. Clerks have similar processes for redacting information from property records; however, processes for verifying the redaction eligibility of individuals varies.
While overall redaction numbers are low, a 2019 law change expanded the definition of home address resulting in the ability for qualified individuals to redact legal descriptions of property from county official records. Key stakeholders identified several issues related to redaction, including those related to constructive notice, chain of title, potential for fraud, providing a false sense of safety, land surveying, and delays in real property transactions.
Several states have implemented programs to keep eligible individuals’ address information confidential while still granting limited access to property records. The Legislature may consider options to reconcile the goal of protecting individuals’ privacy with the need to protect the public interest in real property. These options include modifying an existing address confidentiality program to include personnel identified in s. 119.071(4)(d), Florida Statutes; requiring qualifying individuals to periodically renew redaction requests; requiring a notarized affidavit for redaction eligibility; and directing the clerks to redact information from internet indexes while making unredacted versions of documents available to the public for inspection and copying in their offices.
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