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By Valerie Watts

December 7, 2017 (San Diego) -- County Recorder’s Office personnel are bracing themselves for effects of a new fee imposed by the State of California.  Beginning January 1, 2018, certain recordable documents will be charged a fee in addition to the usual recording fees to support the Building Homes and Jobs Act, SB 2 - Atkins.

The new fees, which will range from $75 to a maximum of $225, will be charged for recording “every real estate instrument, paper, or notice required or permitted by law to be recorded” with certain exemptions.

The most notable exemption is for recording documents in connection with a transfer of real property that is a residential dwelling to an owner-occupier.  This exemption will make it easier for most homeowners, but they need to be prepared.  In order to claim such exemption from the fee at the time of recording, the document to be recorded will be required to state the specific reason for exemption, either on the face of the document or on a coversheet to be recorded with the document (at an extra charge).  As of this writing, the coversheet was not yet available on the County website, although it is expected to be in place soon.  A handout from the Recorders Office states, “Failure to include an exemption reason will result in the imposition of the $75 Building Homes and Jobs Act fee.

Declarations of exemption are subject to review.  Fees collected are deposited to the state and may not be available for refund.”  In other words, if you haven’t prepared your document correctly, you will be charged the fee at the time of recording and you shouldn’t expect a refund even if it turns out you had a valid exemption.

Mandated by GC 27388.1, the monies raised are to be deposited in the Building Homes and Jobs Trust Fund to help the homeless and those at risk of homelessness as well as to help create more affordable housing.

The fee represents a change in the way documents are prepared for recording as well as a substantial increase in the amount paid.  For instance, a three-page Quitclaim Deed currently costs $21 to record, but with the $75 fee it will jump to $96 –over four times as much.

The County Recorder/County Clerk’s Office is trying to get ahead of the situation by informing all who come in about the change, but they expect that there will be a great deal of surprise, confusion and even anger at the beginning of the year.  One employee quipped, “I’m thinking of getting a hockey mask.”

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