State lawmakers have doubled fees charged to record documents with counties and plan to use some of the funds generated to address homelessness.
A $100 surcharge will be added to certain real estate recording fees, including documents used when refinancing or purchasing homes, starting July 25. The increase will not apply to forms such as marriage licenses or birth or death certificates.
Cowlitz County Auditor Carolyn Fundingsland said $24 will go toward a new state eviction prevention program.
Revenue generated through the new program will be disbursed in January 2022, according to Tedd Kelleher, managing director of the housing assistance unit with the state Department of Commerce. The local organization to receive funding has not been determined, he said.
Thursday the Longview City Council chose not to fund a local nonprofit’s funding request to help prevent eviction in light of the increased surcharge aimed at eviction prevention across the state.
Longview Councilman Mike Wallin proposed denying a $15,000 request from Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid to prevent a “duplication of efforts” by the city and state, he said. Since the state would collect and distribute funds from the new recording fee surcharge, the city did not need to distribute any money to Legal Aid, he said.
“Those dollars will be raised by the state,” Wallin said. “We have other needs in our community at this time that we don’t have adequate funding for.”
The council backed his suggestion to give Legal Aid’s requested funds to the Longview Police Department to construct a new office in the Highlands neighborhood instead.
Legal Aid Executive Director Lori Bashor-Sarancik said she does not expect the money generated from the recording fee surcharge to support Cowlitz Wahkiakum Legal Aid because similar funding “usually goes to” Lower Columbia Community Action Program.
Lower Columbia CAP provides money to pay for rent or utilities. Legal Aid provides legal help to prevent evictions.
Bashor-Sarancik said Legal Aid requested money from the city to back a new program that would help tenants navigate new state eviction laws that include establishing repayment plans.
The county’s website states recording legal documents will increase from $103.50 to $203.50 for the first page and $1 thereafter starting July 25.
Auditor Fundingsland said about $10 goes directly to the county, while the rest will go to the state and some money is redirected back to communities.
In 2019, the county generated $1.4 million in recording fee revenue, according to county records. Last year, the county earned roughly 28% more due to the increase in home sales and refinancing in 2020, Fundingsland said.
Cowlitz County Title Company Branch Manager Steve Quaife said the fee increase likely will not be noticed by most homeowners.
“The average consumer, I think they’re going to move on with life,” he said.
Documents in real estate sales are recorded with the county to become public record and added at the end of home sale transactions that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The state chooses how much additional money to collect in the recording fees for services like housing, document preservation and the state library, according to the Washington State Association of County Auditors.