County finance offices might start receiving requests for help – from victims of domestic abuse, to shield their real addresses on their tax records.
Last session, the General Assembly passed HB 633, Secretary of State – Address Confidentiality Programs – Shielding of Real Property Records. Among other things, the bill authorizes a participant in the Address Confidentiality Program for victims of domestic violence or the Human Trafficking Address Confidentiality Program (referred to collectively as ACP) to request the shielding of real property records under specified circumstances. Real property records explicitly include locally maintained property tax records.
The Secretary of State has administered the Maryland Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) for years. The goal of the ACP is to help protect relocated victims of domestic violence and human trafficking from being located by their abuser. As currently operated, the ACP provides substitute addresses for victims and free confidential mail-forwarding services.
As amended by the bill, beginning January 1, 2019, an ACP participant may request that a county shield their real address on their tax records. To do so, according to the law, the participant must submit specified documentation to the county finance office from the Secretary of State, including an intake sheet and program notice. Upon receipt of the information, the county may not disclose the identity of the ACP participant in conjunction with that person’s actual property.
The Secretary of State is tasked with promulgating regulations to effectuate the new law.
The clerks of the court are currently at work developing a uniform way of privately storing the actual property records, and then recording the public records with fictitious names. The clerks will then provide the counties and appropriate State agencies with the records showing the fictitious names.
It is the ACP participant’s obligation to notify the county if their real name and address must be known to avail themselves of certain benefits – like, for example, certain county-provided tax credits. The counties will be able to verify the information with the Secretary of State’s office.
The new law is the result of recommendations by the Task Force to Study Recording Deeds for Victims of Domestic Violence, created by Chapter 602, Acts of 2016.