Clerk extends hours at office of Balto. County land records

Compromise reached with real estate industry

November 22, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Circuit Court Clerk Suzanne K. Mensh agreed yesterday to extend the hours at the county land records office after cutbacks last month sparked an outcry from real estate abstractors and lawyers.

The abstractors, who research property deeds, joined others in the real estate industry in complaining that the hours had been reduced during one of their busiest times. Interest rates near record lows have spurred property sales and mortgage refinancings.

Mensh reduced the hours of the land records office after employees in her office reported that personal items had been stolen and computers tampered with after they left for the day.

The clerk's office, which handles civil and criminal records, and marriage licenses, is on the second floor of the circuit courthouse, along with land records.

Yesterday, Mensh said the decision to extend the hours was a compromise with the real estate industry that she will review in March.

"Nothing is final," she said. "I am giving it a try ... provided there are no incidents."

The new hours, which are to begin Dec. 1, will reopen the land records office on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The office also will be open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

When the hours were cut, the daily closing time was moved from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday hours were eliminated.

Although the hours are shorter than they were before they were changed Oct. 22, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, said Mensh's decision "was a very good compromise."

"For the volume of business going on today, there are times when an abstractor will get an order and will need a title search by tomorrow afternoon because property is going to settlement," Landers said.

He said abstractors have volunteered to wear identification badges to help the county monitor who comes into the courthouse after regular hours.

Doug Burgess, a Towson real estate lawyer who represented the county bar association at yesterday's meeting, said he was pleased with the outcome.

Mensh "did a great job to listen to all parties and come up with a workable solution to a difficult issue, especially in these trying times." he said.

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