The Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) is an idea: the idea that, within the property records industry, government and business can work together, with mutual respect and without acrimony, to address issues of common concern in the world of property transactions. Unique among organizations, PRIA was created based on the concept of “round table” discussions, where participants from all industry segments come together as equals to openly discuss issues relevant to the property records industry and, through frank discussions leading to consensus, develop best practices and standards for the industry.
For nearly three centuries, no forum existed to foster understanding and cooperation between the government and business sectors of the property records industry, at either the local or national levels. In the 1990s, the industry found itself at a crossroads, facing new laws, such as the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), or revised laws, such as Article IX of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC); new industry structures, such as the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS); and the use of new technologies, such as the Internet and electronic recording. The urgent need for a means to coordinate such complex challenges was palpable. Business was frustrated by an inability to get documents recorded quickly and efficiently. Government was frustrated by its inability to improve efficiency and customer service through use of new technologies because of a lack of funding. To make matters worse, with no national standards in place, state legislatures were adopting widely differing requirements applicable to property transactions, hampering the growing nationalization and globalization of property financing and ownership.
By 1997, leaders of the two national associations representing county recorders recognized the critical need for a structured forum to promote better communication and understanding between the industry’s government and business sectors. Through the vision and efforts of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials & Clerks (NACRC) and the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials & Treasurers (IACREOT), the idea of an industry-wide task force, established jointly by government and business, was born. The Property Records Industry Joint Task Force (PRIJTF) was created, legally structured as a subcommittee under NACRC co-sponsored by IACREOT. National business groups, led by Fannie Mae and the American Land Title Association (ALTA), provided crucial organizational and financial support. Industry leaders from all sectors were invited and encouraged to participate. The response was positive and the first PRIJTF meeting was held on February 26, 1998, in Washington, D.C., with representatives from most of the industry’s major national professional associations in attendance.
Initially designated as a three-year task force, PRIJTF grew to several hundred active participants by 2002, who gathered in a “town meeting” style forum twice a year, and issued a number of “white papers” on significant issues. Recognizing that this unique business and government partnership was working, the task force participants moved to form a permanent structure for the forum through incorporation as a not-for-profit corporation. In the fall of 2002, the task force was dissolved and the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) was born. In order to preserve the special historical relationship between NACRC and IACREOT and the association, their representatives continue to serve on the board of directors of the association.
PRIA continues to provide a forum for the identification, research, discussion, development, drafting, and implementation of national standards, best practices, and new technology solutions to promote the integrity of the public records system, the efficiency of industry operations, and the effectiveness of interfaces between the two. PRIA continues to identify and address significant new issues such as land fraud, using both work groups and “town meeting” discussions to make sure differing perspectives are aired. Where consensus forms, recommendations for best practices and standards for the industry are published and distributed. As a result of the success of the idea, PRIA is now recognized as an essential industry player, developing new roles, such as our role in setting standards for the electronic land recording interface in cooperation with the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO).
In a final metaphor, PRIA is the bridge that crosses the boundary between two interdependent segments of the American economy. PRIA’s success depends on the mutual commitment of business and government leaders to achieve their common goal of keeping the nation’s property records industry sound.