Because of recently approved state legislation, the Crook County Clerk's Office is forced to substantially hike some of its recording fees.
Effective June 4, recording fees for most documents will increase by $40 due to the passage of House Bill 4007, announced County Clerk Cheryl Seely.
"This brings the first page recording fee of most documents to $94," she added.
Seely said that Oregon Revised Statute 205.323 1(c) currently dictates how much county clerks must charge to cover the Housing Alliance Tax. When the statute was first enacted by HB 2436 by the 2009 Oregon Legislature, that total was set at $15. It was later bumped to $20, but this year HB 4007 pushed it to $60.
"It's a fee that clerks are required to charge," Seely said. Other fees associated with recording include $10 for the Assessment and Taxation Fund and $10 for the Land Corner and Preservation Fund. Another $5 technology fee is included that goes to the County IT Department and $5 goes to the Clerk's Office to cover its recording fee. Also, $2 is collected to pay for archiving the records, $1 goes to Oregon Land Information Systems, and $1 is collected for implementation of the Housing Alliance Tax collection.
"A really small portion of that ($10.25) stays in the Clerk's Office, and a little bigger portion stays with the county," Seely said.
According to a document produced by the Oregon Housing Alliance, an organization focused on providing state residents with affordable housing, the now $60 fee is paid on the purchase or refinancing of a home, changes in ownership that need to be recorded, or a foreclosure.
"Currently, the Department of Revenue is exempt from paying the fee and the 2018 bill exempts tax collectors and certain mining claims, judgments and warrants issued by the Employment Department."
The Housing Alliance has raised about $91 million from the recording fee since 2009, and by statute, those resources go to the State's housing finance agency, Oregon Housing and Community Services.
Seely said that some of the money collected is expected to return to Crook County through various affordable housing projects and Oregon Housing Authority and other programs. However, since those projects often serve the entire Central Oregon region, it can be hard to track what money actually comes to Crook County.
Seely points out that county clerks throughout Oregon opposed the increase and presented numerous documents and testimonies but could not prevent the increase.
She went on to stress that the clerks did not oppose everything about HB 4007. It includes language about enacting a first-time homebuyer savings accounts and other affordable housing programs.
"There were really good pieces to that and the clerks didn't oppose all of that portion of it," she said. "They just opposed this large of an increase."
Seely acknowledged that the average person will not likely record documents every month, or even every year. It depends how often they buy and sell property, she said. However, there is one particular scenario where the increase causes her and other clerks great concern.
"It you are vested in title with a spouse and your spouse passes away and you want to record that death certificate in the event that will remove them from the title, right now our death certificates are a two-page document (and cost $99 to record under the new increase)."
"That's a struggle for folks who have to come in and do that," she said. "We anticipate that will be an even tougher struggle now."