Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 336 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


County auditors shall charge one dollar for filing or recording, or both, of real estate contracts, conditional in nature of one page or less and shall charge fifty cents for each additional page.  One dollar shall also be charged for filing or recording documents dealing with chattels but authority for said fees is found in separate paragraphs of RCW 36.18.010.

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                                                                   June 30, 1952

Honorable John Panesko
Prosecuting Attorney
Lewis County
Chehalis, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 336

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request of June 3, 1952, for an opinion of this office as to whether it is our interpretation that under section 4, chapter 51, Laws of 1951, the filing fees for real estate contracts should be the same as those for conditional sales of personal property.

            Our conclusion is that county auditors shall charge one dollar ($1.00) for filing a real estate contract for the first page and shall make the same charge for filing or recording chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts, but authority for said charges is contained in separate parts of RCW 36.18.010.


            Section 4, chapter 51, Laws of 1951, amending RCW 36.18.010 derived from section 1, chapter 56, Laws of 1907 is admittedly an extremely confusing and ambiguous act.  Part of the confusion was caused by certain deletions being made in the original bill.  Analysis of said section reveals that the first part of the section is concerned with documents relating to personal property such  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] as chattel mortgages and conditional sales contracts.  The following paragraphs, however, are the only ones concerned with fees to be charged for documents relating to real estate, and read as follows:

            "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: Provided, That there shall be an additional fee of one dollar for recording each deed, real estate contract or assignment of real estate contract which does not contain the mailing address of the grantee, purchaser or assignee;

            "For marginal release of mortgage or lien, fifty cents;"

            It is, therefore, our opinion that, although it is possible that the legislature intended a different result, said provisions are the only ones which instruct county auditors as to the fees that may be charged for filing of deeds, real estate contracts, assignments of said contracts and releases of mortgages.

            A real estate contract may be referred to as a conditional sales contract, but said term usually applies only to agreements to purchase personal property, and the paragraphs quoted do not use the term "conditional."  Since the statute divides into separate paragraphs the authority for filing and recording real estate documents as opposed to documents concerned with chattels, the county auditors shall look to the particular paragraph concerned with the type of document being filed or recorded for authority to make his charges.  In other words, both the paragraph concerned with documents dealing with chattels and the paragraph covering documents relating to real estate call for a one dollar fee for filing the chattel documents, and the first page of the documents dealing with real estate, but authority for these charges is found in different paragraphs of the same section.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General