The Transition From Book and Page to Instrument Number: The Pros and Cons

by | Apr 17, 2024 | Uncategorized

Bridget M. Friedman had an article selected to be published in the Spring 2015 issue of ActionLine (Vol. XXXVI, No. 3), a publication of The Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar.

Recently, several Clerks of Court across Florida and across the nation have changed their registration systems for recording the Official Records, transitioning from the traditional Book and Page system to solely using Instrument Numbers. To understand this emerging trend, a historical review is insightful.

Originally, when the recording system began, the records consisted of 200 page leather bound books. Once page 200 was reached, a new higher book was used to record subsequent instruments. The books were limited to 200 pages because otherwise they would be too bulky to pull from the shelf. With the advent of microfilm around the 1950s, some counties discontinued the use of physical books and instruments were then placed onto film. Although microfilm could hold 2,000 pages, the traditional Book and Page numbering system was perpetuated. Once instruments were placed on film, the recording system went from a physical to a virtual recording system.

With each advance in technology, the recording system advanced as well. After microfiche, technology moved to digitizing documents, where Clerks were scanning documents to CDs and DVDs for future retrieval. CDs and DVDs hold thousands of documents, so a new book would seldom be needed. Some counties arbitrarily picked the number of pages for each book, even though CDs and DVDs could accommodate more pages. In spite of these technological advances, the recording industry kept with the historical practice of assigning Book and Page numbers to each recorded instrument.

Now with the advances in technology and with several Clerks converting their recording software to newer technology so that it will function with the latest operating systems, there is a move toward solely using Instrument Numbers as opposed to the historical Book and Page system. Florida Statutes do not mandate the Book and Page system, and therefore, Clerks are able to adopt new numbering systems with advances in technology. The use of an Instrument Number as opposed to a Book and Page number allows easier conversion to newer recording software because there are less data constraints with one number as opposed to two.

The former physical and space restrictions are absent with the arrival of larger storage capacities prevalent in present day cloud computing. Furthermore, the use of a single Instrument Number eliminates the need for the Clerk to add “A” after the recording information to a page that has been omitted during the recording process or where the wrong page is recorded with a document. Further, the Instrument Number system eliminates the need for designating a “page not used” where, after recording, it is discovered that a page should not have been recorded with a certain instrument. For clarification, under the Book and Page system, when the Clerk discovers that a recorded document is missing a page or includes an incorrect page, the Clerk corrects the recording by designating the missing page as “A” and noting a deleted page as “page not used”.

By contrast, under the Instrument Number system, each instrument is given a unique number and the pages of the document are identified as “Page 1 of 16, page 2 of 16, etc.” If an error is discovered during the Clerk’s quality control review, then the Instrument Number stays the same, and the number of pages is modified. In terms of speed of recording, using an Instrument Number allows for faster recording during the quality control process because the recording is based on a package of information versus individual pages where the recorder must verify each page.

However, there are some drawbacks to only using an Instrument Number. For example, if both a Book and Page number and Instrument Number are used, there are redundancies that would allow for cross-checking recording information. However, with only an Instrument Number, if there is a scrivener’s error in a related document, one would be relegated to using the name index to locate the document.

In addition, with a lengthy Instrument Number, the numbers could be easily transposed. However, when considering that some Books are five digits long, and the Pages four digits, the nine digit Instrument Number is no longer than what is used under the Book and Page system of recording.

Taken as a whole, it appears that the transition to the Instrument Number system has had a warm reception by both Clerks of Court and by the industry. Lee, Sarasota, and Broward are the known counties that have transitioned to solely using the Instrument Number system.

If you have any questions regarding the transition from Book and Page to Instrument Numbers, please feel free to contact Bridget M. Friedman at (407) 830-6331 or bfriedman@ff-attorneys.com.

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