Mark Harmsworth, of the Washington Policy Center, discusses House Bill 1277, which has almost doubled recording fees for many of the documents required for legal transactions in Washington
This opinion piece was produced and first published by the Washington Policy Center. It is published here with the permission of and full attribution to the Washington Policy Center.
The state legislature quietly passed House Bill 1277 (HB 1277) during the 2021 session which has, in some cases, almost doubled recording fees for many of the documents that are required to be filed for legal transactions in Washington.
The bill created a $100 surcharge on any document recorded by a county auditors office. For many counties, this means the first page of any recording is now over $200 and subsequent pages are charged at a $1 per page. In the case of a home refinance or purchase, the fee can easily exceed $300 for each document type.
While the fee increase is not a direct tax, it is being used as one.
Comparing Washington state to other states’ recording fees, Washington is by far the most expensive state in which to record documents.
The increase in fees is basically a tax as the size of the fee doesn’t bear any relation to the administrative costs of recording the documents. The excess fees are effectively a social tax on homeowners and property owners (since the majority of the larger recordings are done during a home purchase) to pay for the state affordable housing programs.
Home purchases and refinancing homes are an expensive financial transaction and Washington State just made that transaction more expensive. Due to the nature of home purchase and refinance transactions, which have complex and lengthy financial statements and fees, the increase in the recording fee is likely to be lost in the complex financial transaction totals.
It is unfortunate that the legislature chose to increase fees on homeowners, making homes more expensive to purchase in Washington for both first time homeowners and those wishing to refinance their homes to reduce payments or improve their properties.
The state should be reducing the financial burden on homeowners, many who have struggled to make their budgets work during the state mandated lockdowns.
Mark Harmsworth is the director of the Small Business Center at the Washington Policy Center.