Effective January 1, 1997, all documents submitted for recording in Washington State must conform to standards set by RCW 36.18 and 65.04. A cover sheet is required for documents where the first page does not contain the necessary index fields or the three inch top margin. You can download a cover sheet from the Recording Forms page. All pages must conform to formatting requirements for margins, page size, font size, color, legibility and attachments. A cover sheet will not relieve you of the responsibility of meeting the formatting requirements for all subsequent pages. Documents that do not meet the requirements will be returned for reformatting before they will be recorded.
The first page of the document must have a three-inch margin at the top, and a one-inch margin on the sides and bottom. The first page must also include the following key information:
- return address on left side (may be within the three-inch top margin)
- document title or titles
- reference numbers of documents assigned or released (if applicable)
- names of the grantors and grantees with references to pages where additional names can be found
- entire or abbreviated legal description
- assessor's property tax parcel number or account number
All documents will not have all pieces of the above information. Please read the descriptions of each item found later in this guide to see if it applies to the document you are preparing. Although the requirement is that the information appear on the first page, we appreciate all of the businesses who, when reformatting their documents moved it up and have it immediately following the three-inch top margin. It is our preference for the information to be included in the same order as listed above. Each additional page of same document must have one-inch margins on all sides.
A cover sheet is only required if the first page of the document does not include the required information listed above and a three-inch margin. When a cover sheet is used to fulfill the three-inch top margin and indexing information requirements all other requirements must still be met or the document will be returned for compliance. Also, when a cover sheet is used, one dollar will be added to the recording fee for the additional page on the document. You can download a cover sheet from the Recording Forms page.
It is our preference that documents be reformatted to meet the requirements and thereby eliminate the need for an extra page. Cover sheets will be provided in the Auditor's office. Although the cover sheet must be completed by the customer, or staff will assist customers in identifying index type information (for example, explaining to a customer which name is the grantor and grantee). It is not acceptable to put "See Attached" or "see page ___" in place of including information on the form.
Aside from the return address in the opt three-inch margin, all margins must be clear. No additional addresses, bar codes, company logos, hole punches, line numbers, order numbers, page numbers, tracking numbers, headers, footers, notary or other seals, signatures, initials, etc., may be placed in any margin. You may place this information on the document, just keep it out of the required margins.
Waiver to Margin Requirements
A waiver for the 3" top and 1" sides and bottom margin requirements may be obtained. More information is available by contacting the Recording Office. There is a $50 fee for this waiver.
No attachment may be affixed to documents presented for recording. Attachments, for purposes of this legislation, refers to notary seals, stick notes, or other items stapled, taped, etc. on the face of the document. Attachment does not refer to additional pages added to the end of a document such as addenda, schedules, or expanded legals which may be referred to in the body of the document as "Attachment A" or "Appendix A", etc.
The font size must be 8 point type or larger. Smaller than that is very difficult to read, and does not image or reproduce easily.
The maximum page size is 8 1/2" x 14". If your document is oversize you will need to reduce the original to fit on 8 1/2" x 14" or use multiple 8 1/2" x 14" pages.
The paper must be of a weight and color capable of producing legible images, and Watermarks in the body of documents that produce unreadable images will be returned for reformatting. Highlighter marks are causing problems. When documents have been highlighted in certain colors, those words are obliterated when scanned, copied or filmed.
Title or titles of the document. If using a cover sheet, the title(s) on the coversheet must be the same as the title(s) on the document.
The return address should be placed within the three-inch top margin on the first page.
A reference number is the Auditor's file number and volume and page (if used) of the document being assigned or released.
To find the appropriate party/parties to place in this field, please contact the Recording Office for the list title "Summary of Recorded Documents".
See Grantor, above.
If a document has not historically included a legal description, this legislation does not require customers to begin adding a legal. If a legal does appear on the document or cover sheet, the assessor's tax parcel identification number must also appear on the first page. If your entire legal is on the first page, there is no need or requirement to also abbreviate it on the first page. In cases where the entire legal does not appear on the first page it must be abbreviated and placed on the first page of the document or cover sheet with a reference as to where the entire legal is located. Appropriate abbreviations are:
Lot Block Subdivision
Section-Township-Range quarter-quarter section (i.e., 32-17N-3W NE NE)
It is not acceptable to put "See attached" or "refer to Appendix A" in place of abbreviating the legal.
Assessor's Tax Parcel ID Number
A tax parcel ID number must appear on the first page of the document/cover sheet if a legal is included in the document. If there are too many numbers to fit on the first page, you must put what will fit and a reference to the page of the document where the remainder are located. If you need help locating the number you can contact the County Assessor's Office. If the parcel number has not yet been assigned, put "Not Yet Assigned" in the space for parcel number. If a parcel number is on the document, the legal must also be included.
Documents which will be recorded with a properly completed cover sheet
Anything signed or created prior to January 1, 1997, birth certificates, death certificates, out of country documents, certified copies of documents recorded or filed (court documents), judgments or other court documents formatted to meet court requirements, marriage certificates from out of local county, DD214s.
Documents which are exempt from the requirements and do not require cover sheets
IRS documents; marriage certificates from Clark County.
Washington State UCC forms (UCC-3s) are designed by the Washington State Department of Licensing for use by their office for UCCs filed with them. These forms are for their internal use, and will not comply with the document standardization requirements. UCCs for the Auditor's Office use (UCC-2s & 5s) that comply with the new requirements have been redesigned and are available from forms companies.
Common Problems for Document Refusal
Seals in margin, signature or initials in margin, missing parcel number, something other than the return address in top 3" margin, one-inch margins are not one-inch.