AB2299 – The Destruction of Real Property Rights of Californians
Earlier this year, Assembly Bill 2299 was introduced in the California legislature by Assemblyman Mike Feuer. The proponents of this bill claim that it would protect law enforcement officers by hiding the names and addresses of public safety officials from members of the public that aim to inflict harm. While the intent of the bill is well-meaning, the unintended consequences would be devastating to real property rights of all Californians.
Under the provisions of AB2299, certain documents would no longer be open to public inspection creating a system where only the government could verify real property ownership. If certain records were removed or hidden from the public it would be impossible for California citizens to independently prove ownership of their own homes. Historically governments have used control of land ownership to be oppressive in governing those they rule. In many countries today citizens are prevented from knowing who owns land unless the ‘government’ allows them to know.
Purchasing a home it is often one of the biggest financial decisions that a person will make in their lifetime. Most of us are only willing to trade our hard earned money for property that we know for certain will belong to us when escrow closes. So how does someone know for sure that a person actually owns a piece of property and has the legal right to sell it to you? To prove property ownership in California, any member of the public doing due diligence may research the records of the County Recorder, Assessor and other government taxing agencies. The potential buyer or lender will review all of the documents that may have impacted the property since it first came into private ownership. Every document recorded against a piece of property is checked and verified for authenticity and relevance. Ownership can be proved if throughout history rightful owners properly sold their land. In order for this system to work, all documents that have ever been recorded must remain open to public inspection. This is the way that property rights have been proven since the founding of this country. If even one document was removed from the records or shielded from the public eye, the entire system is compromised.
The founders of this country believed that ownership of private property was the basis of a free society, and was essential for the preservation of wealth and happiness. Owning real property provides a place to assemble and speak freely. Selling or borrowing against your land provides an opportunity to attain prosperity. To safeguard the real property rights of Americans, Congress and state legislatures, designed a system of recording land records that was open to public inspection and safe from the interference of government control. Providing public access to all property records protects against secret conveyances and prevents power over private property by the government. Californians must not become complacent about the importance of real property to our freedom of speech, religion and free trade. We must not allow our legislature to pass laws that will minimize, restrict and/or eliminate access to property records by private citizens. Although the proponents of this bill argue that it protects the deserving men and women who put themselves in harm’s way, AB2299 would actually harm the freedoms of not only the public safety officials it seeks to protect, but the freedoms of every Californian.