(Editor’s note: The interview with Kay Schwartz for this story was conducted last week before she retired as Whitley County Clerk.)
Have a will that you have been meaning to file, but haven’t gotten around to taking it to the county clerk’s office? Planning to get married in January? Bought a house, but you haven’t gotten around to filing the deed yet at the county clerk’s office?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may want to get down to the Whitley County Clerk’s Office by Dec. 30 because the fees for filing many documents is getting ready to increase – significantly in many cases – starting Jan. 1, 2020.
This is part of the message that now former Whitley County Clerk Kay Schwartz is giving people in advance of a change in state law that starts next year.
For instance, the cost to record a deed will go from $17 to $50 for up to a five-page deed. Each additional page beyond that will cost $3. The cost to record a will jumps from $8 to $47. The cost for a marriage license will increase from $35.50 to $50. The cost to record a mortgage will go from $17 to $80 for a mortgage up to 30 pages. Then there will be a $3 fee for every additional page.
Schwartz noted that this wasn’t her doing.
The new law is the result of a two-year effort by a coalition of banks, land title attorneys, clerks and the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office to produce legislation that updates notary laws and allowed for electronic recording of documents, Schwartz said.
In addition, mortgage lenders requested that Kentucky establish a “flat fee” for mortgage document recording to make it easier for lenders to comply with “truth-in-lending” requirements.
Schwartz added that many of these fees haven’t been changed in 25 to 30 years, which puts Kentucky behind the fees charged by other states for similar fees or services.
“It has been a long time since anything has been raised,” she said.
The new fees were determined by looking at the fees charged by other states and then calculating the average, she said.
Schwartz noted that people with documents that need recording in her office need to get down there by Dec. 30 in order to avoid paying the increased fees.
The county clerk’s office will be closed on Dec. 31 as state officials work to update software with the new rates.
Schwartz’s office will keep a portion of the fee increases. State affordable housing will also see increased funding due to the new law.
Schwartz said that a portion of the new fees that her office takes in would go towards modernization of her office, such as allowing for electronic recording of various documents.
Another portion of the fees will go to pay postage for the county clerks. Schwartz said that some of the documents, which are mailed to her office, aren’t recordable documents under state law and have to be returned.
Other documents will sometimes also have to be sent back to the sender due to problems.
“The flat rate of $17 was the deed fee, but we may return that deed a couple of times before it can be recorded,” she added. “We have been incurring all that expense.”
Some county clerks are also paying for storage space to house paper records because they have run out of room in their courthouse offices.
Schwartz said that so far she hasn’t even started calculating to see how much new revenue this will generate for her office, but noted she would have to do so next month in order to plan her budget for 2020.
While most county offices operate on a fiscal year that starts July 1 and runs through June 30 of the following year, county clerks and sheriff’s operate on a calendar year basis from Jan. 1 – Dec. 31.
Any excess fees generated by the county clerk’s office are returned to the Whitley County Fiscal Court.