“True and false are attributes of speech, not of things.”
Here’s what we cover:
A false document is one that is forged, groundless, contains a material misstatement or false claim, or is otherwise invalid. The recording of a false document with the county recorder will subject the person to both civil and criminal liability under Arizona’s false documents statute.
The county recorder generally will accept for recording any document that is presented in recordable form. The county recorder does not verify the validity of a document presented to him for recording. Deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages, and mechanic’s liens are typical of the documents recorded in the office of the county recorder.
A person claiming an interest in, or a lien or encumbrance against real property, who causes a document asserting the claim to be recorded in the office of the county recorder, knowing or having reason to know that the document is false (as defined above), is liable to the owner of the property for damages. The property owner will be entitled to recover $5,000 or three times the actual damages caused by the recording, whichever is greater, plus the owner’s reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.
A person who is named in a document which attempts to create an interest in, or a lien or encumbrance against real property, and who knows the document is false, must release or correct the document within 20 days from the date of a written request from the owner to do so. If the person refuses to release or correct the document, he will be liable to the owner for $1,000 or for three times actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorney’s fees and costs.
The owner of the property may file a lawsuit pursuant to the false documents statute in the superior court in the county in which the property is located. In addition to recovering damages, the owner may obtain a court order that clears title to his property.
A lawsuit for false document recording must be filed within one year from when the cause of action accrues, or it will be barred by the statute of limitations. A beneficial title holder has all of the same rights and remedies as the owner under the statute.
The recording of a false document could also subject the person to jail time and/or a fine. A person who records any document claiming an interest in, or a lien or encumbrance against real property, when he knows that the document is forged, contains a material misstatement or false claim, or is otherwise invalid, is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. This crime is seldom prosecuted, however.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know. Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.