Among other duties, such as supervising state and local elections, the Washington Secretary of State (SOS) has extensive recordkeeping and recording responsibilities. For example, the SOS is the custodian of state records and supervises the Division of Archives and Records Management and the State Archives.
The SOS also has responsibilities under the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA). The URPERA requires the SOS to create and appoint an E-Recording Standards Commission (ERSC) to review electronic recording standards and to make recommendations to the SOS for rules necessary to implement URPERA. The ERSC may include assessors, treasurers, land title company representatives, escrow agents, mortgage brokers, the state archivist, and any other party the SOS deems appropriate, but a majority of the commission must be comprised of county recorders or auditors.
The URPERA allows recording and signature requirements to be satisfied electronically. It also allows the SOS to adopt rules for the electronic recording of documents. To keep standards and practices of recording officers in Washington in harmony with recording offices in other jurisdictions, the SOS is directed to consider various factors, such as standards adopted by national bodies, when adopting or altering standards.
County auditors are responsible for recording real property documents, such as deeds, transfers of real property, and mortgages within the county. County auditors may record documents electronically.
The E-Recordings Standards Commission is renamed the Recording Standards Commission (RSC). The RSC must review recording standards, including electronic review standards, and make recommendations to the SOS for rules necessary for consistent recording of documents. A majority of the members of the RSC must be county recorders or county auditors. The RSC may include county surveyors among its other members.
The SOS must make reasonable rules in accordance with federal and state laws for the uniform recording of documents in cooperation with the RSC. Additionally, the SOS is authorized to make rules governing:
In order to keep the standards and practices of recording offices in Washington in harmony, and to promote harmony with other jurisdictions that have adopted similar legislation or policies, the SOS, when adopting or changing rules supporting recording standards, should consider:
(In support) The RSC would help to ensure that auditors across the state follow consistent recording procedures. Currently recording standards can vary, which leads to document rejection and creates confusion, frustration, extra cost, and liability. Document recording plays a central role in real estate transactions, but no one currently has statewide rulemaking authority. Most people buy homes with the assistance of title companies, and these companies do business in multiple counties and have to confront inconsistent requirements and fees. Some current regulations are not clear or are interpreted differently in different counties. Having an authority able to promulgate general regulations is important, as this will create consistency. Smaller counties require technical and policy assistance, and are looking forward to partnering with the SOS. Having simplified statewide guidance will benefit consumers and provide benefits beyond just deeds to other documents as well.