Pursuant to Article 7 of the Michigan Constitution, each of Michigan’s 83 counties is required to have a register of deeds. With offices located in each county seat, the register of deeds is responsible for recording “instruments” (documents) involving real estate located in the county. The register of deeds is entitled to charge and receive fees as compensation for its services as set by law. Historically, recording fees have always been based on the number of pages in the document being recorded; for example, $14.00 for the first page and $3.00 for each additional page. As of October 1, 2016, this all changed.
On June 22, 2016, Governor Snyder signed into law a package of nine bills providing for flat recording fees for various classifications of documents (Michigan Public Acts 224 through 232 of 2016). Pursuant to this legislation, as of October 1, 2016, county register of deeds offices began charging a flat recording fee of $30.00 per document recorded, regardless of the number of pages.
That said, the new law does allow “charter counties,” by ordinance or resolution, to impose fees that deviate from the flat fee, provided that the fee is not greater than the cost of the service provided. Macomb County and Wayne County are the only two charter counties in the state. While the Macomb County register of deeds office has announced that it will charge the $30.00 flat recording fee, the Wayne County register of deeds office has posted on its website that pending review, it will not change its current fee schedule on October 1.
It is also interesting to note that the new law provides that $5.00 of the flat fee is to be deposited into an automation fund established by each county and managed by the county treasurer. The fund is to be used to upgrade technology in the register of deeds office, with priority given to upgrading search capabilities. For those of us who search property records throughout the state on a regular basis, this is a welcome provision.
While the work of the register of deeds may seem mundane, it is in fact vitally important to anyone who owns real estate. When you try to sell your property, or to borrow against it, you will need to demonstrate a clean chain of title as recorded with the register of deeds.