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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 224 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


1. County auditors shall charge fifty cents for filing release of chattel mortgage on conditional sale contract.

2. No additional charge shall be made for filing an assignment on the back of or attached to chattel mortgage or conditional sales contracts, but $1.00 shall be charged for separate assignments therefor.

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                                                                 January 25, 1952

Honorable Ralph G. Swanson
Prosecuting Attorney
Thurston County
Court House
Olympia, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 224

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request for clarification of that part of chapter 51, Laws of 1951, relating to fees to be charged by county auditors for filing certain legal documents.  You have referred to the filing of releases of chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts, but have asked specifically whether or not the Thurston County auditor is presently acting correctly in charging $1.00 for filing of assignments thereof.

            In order to avoid a possible misinterpretation of your request, we interpret the act both as to releases and to assignments of chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts, and our conclusions may be stated as follows:

            1. For filing the release of a chattel mortgage or conditional sales contract fifty cents shall be charged by the county auditor.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2. For filing or recording an assignment on the back of the original or attached thereto, no additional filing charge shall be made for the assignment; if the assignment is filed separately from the original contract or chattel mortgage, the sum of $1.00 shall be charged for filing the same.


            Apparently as a result of amendments made to the original bill, § 4 of chapter 51, Laws of 1951 (RCW 36.18.010), has become so ambiguous that it is difficult to find what the intent of the legislature was in enacting several of the provisions contained therein.  The condition appears common with this type of legislation and this office has been called upon numerous times to interpret chapter 56, Laws of 1907, which is an earlier act providing for filing and recording of instruments by the various county auditors.

            The 1907 act above referred to made a specific charge for filing chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts, but as has occurred in chapter 51, Laws of 1951, it failed to make any provision specifically for assignments thereof.  Our opinion to the supervisor of municipal corporations, dated June 24, 1924, a copy of which is enclosed, interpreted said act to the effect that if the conditional sales contract is filed with an assignment thereof, only one instrument is filed and one filing fee may be charged.  Subsequent opinions dated March 10, 1933, addressed to the prosecuting attorney of Clark County, and May 29, 1934, addressed to the prosecuting attorney of Spokane County, discussed assignments filed at a later date and decided that the provisions of the 1907 law covering the filing of instruments other than chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts controlled.  Since the two acts are analogous the opinions cover the present problem and there appears to be no reason to overrule them.  The same reasoning, therefore, would apply as to the present amendment and the only part thereof which could apply as to separate assignments is the second part of the following quotation of the amendment.

            "* * *

            "County auditors shall collect the following fees for their official services: For filing or recording, or both, of each chattel mortgage and conditional sale contract, and entering same as required by law, one dollar; for release of chattel mortgage or conditional sale contract, fifty cents;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "For filing or recording, or both, of instruments, for the first page, legal size (eight and one‑half by thirteen inches or less), one dollar; for each additional legal size page, fifty cents; for indexing each name over two, ten cents:  * * * "

            As to the fee for filing releases of such contracts and chattel mortgages, there can be no problem as the act clearly requires that fifty cents shall be charged.  The various county auditors are required to make the appropriate charges provided for by the law regardless of whether or not they consider them reasonable and fair.

            It, therefore, follows that for filing chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts $1.00 shall be charged; for filing releases thereof fifty cents shall be charged; if an assignment is executed on the back of, or attached to, said mortgage or contract, there is only one instrument to be filed and only one charge will be made for filing; if, however, the assignment is separate, as occurs when the same is filed at a later date, $1.00 shall be charged therefor.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General