Agency seeks laws to boost efficiency
For a half-million dollars and some tweaks to state law, the Bureau of Conveyances could be registering changes in land ownership online as soon as this summer, a consultant says.
Real estate and savings-and-loan veteran Nicky Thompson has spent the last three months working as a liaison between the bureau and a working group of industry professionals that seeks to get the land recording agency into the 21st century.
Dysfunction at the bureau, which is part of the sprawling Department of Land and Natural Resources, was among the issues cited by state senators when they refused to reappoint former DLNR Director Peter Young to his post last April.
One of the first things current DLNR Director Laura Thielen did was to form a bureau working group consisting of representatives from title companies, banks, law firms, labor unions, real estate and the bureau staff.
The group's goals were to speed up recording of land documents, improve customer service, tighten the security of the records database and improve identity-theft protection for landowners, Thielen said in a release announcing the group's recommendations.
Online filing of land documents should be as easy as making a purchase through an online vendor such as Amazon.com, Thielen has said.
"We look forward to the support of the 2008 Legislature in approving the necessary changes to law to implement these steps to automate and streamline the Bureau of Conveyances," Thielen said in her release.
According to Thompson, three administration bills will seek to:
» Make changes in the law governing bureau operations to allow for electronic acceptance of documents.
» Increase identity security for landowners by using only the last four digits of a Social Security number on public documents, a change that has been enacted in many other states and some Hawaii state agencies.
» Shift handling of time-share registrations to the less time-consuming "regular" division of the bureau, as opposed to its Land Court.
» Allow landowners to voluntarily leave the Land Court system, which takes much more time to verify documents because the state guarantees titles there.
Since 1957, Hawaii has required title insurance on all land transactions, which effectively provides assurance of ownership that the older Land Court guaranty procedure was intended to provide, Thompson said.
The greater efficiency will not result in anyone losing a job.
"There's plenty to do around here," Thompson said.
Though the bureau has erased its infamous stack of unopened mail, full registration -- and online availability -- of Land Court documents faces a year's delay, Thompson said. Regular documents take several months to get into the system.
Former regular registration branch chief Nicolene Gega-Chang retired at the end of 2007 for health reasons, Thompson said. The acting chief is now Carol Ching.