General Office Information/History
Recording and Filing Documents
Mortgages and Satisfactions
Property and Boundary Information
Notary Public Information
GENERAL OFFICE INFORMATION/HISTORY
Q: What kinds of documents are filed in your office? Just deeds?
A: The Recorder of Deeds Office is the repository for documents primarily relating to real estate located in Luzerne County. The Recorder of Deeds Office records and maintains many kinds of legal documents, in addition to deeds. We record and keep copies of land records including deeds, mortgages, mortgage assignments, mortgage releases, and mortgage satisfactions. We also record miscellaneous deeds and mortgages, leases, sales agreements, maps, easements, right of ways, and other assorted property-related documents. In addition to real estate documents, we record notary public commissions, bonds and commissions for elected officials, powers of attorney, court orders, affidavits, military discharges (DD-214), Uniform Commercial Code filings, and charter documents.
Q: How far back do the records date in your office?
A: Luzerne County was incorporated in 1786. The first document was recorded at the Recorder of Deeds Office in 1787, and we have been recording and maintaining records for the county since that time.
Q: Are all of your documents kept in books? What if there was an accident and the books were destroyed?
A: The older documents, from the time period of 1787 through August 1993 are kept in bound books located in the main Recorder of Deeds Office for easy access, with microfilm backups kept in a safe location for historical retention. Records from September 1993 through the present are kept on our Landex computer system, with disc and microfilm backups. The Recorder of Deeds Office takes pride in our records and in doing our collective best to maintain the records that we are responsible for. We also continually seek to improve ways to maintain our records and to provide better access for the public.
Q: As a member of the public, how can I access the records in your office?
A: All records (except for military discharges) are public and anyone can access them. You may visit the office in person or you can get a copy mailed or faxed to you. The Recorder of Deeds Office is open from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. through 4:30 p.m., except for legal holidays. Luzerne County usually posts in advance in the newspaper the days that county offices will be closed. It may be a good idea to call the office at (570) 825-1641, if you have any questions regarding whether we will be open or closed on a certain date. For an individual who wishes to obtain a copy of one document, a visit to the office or a mail request is recommended. In the office, retrieval stations with the ability to print copies at the price of .50 cents per page are available for public use, and photocopiers are available to copy pages from the books at the cost of .50 cents per page.
In order to have the document mailed to you, you must make the request in writing and enclose the fee for this service. We must have the name, book and page number, and a self-addressed stamped envelope of sufficient size. The current fee for mailed documents is $5.00 for the first page, $2.00 each additional page and $2.00 to certify the document, if needed. You can get a copy faxed to you if you have the book and page number. The fee for this service is currently $2.00 per page. There is a $5.00 look-up fee for commercial look-ups, but there is no charge, as a courtesy, to residents of the County. We cannot certify copies sent by fax. All of our computerized documents are also accessible through the Landex Remote. The Landex remote access is most beneficial for individuals or companies who expect to access our records on a regular basis.
Q: What information do I need to check a deed or mortgage?
A: Information is indexed by the names of the grantor (seller) and mortgagor (borrower) and the grantee (buyer) and the mortgagee (lender). Prior to September 1993, the older books are grouped by years. Information after September 1993 is located on our computer system. To locate a deed or mortgage you must know the name of one of the persons involved and also the approximate year of the transaction.
Q: Can I contact your office for legal advice regarding real estate issues?
A: Sorry, we cannot offer legal advice. Often the Recorder of Deeds Office will receive requests from the public to prepare deeds for them, determine if there are any liens against their property, or determine if a piece of land has been subdivided. Unfortunately, the Recorder of Deeds and the staff here are not authorized to do any of the above activities, and in some instances would be committing a third degree misdemeanor if we did perform some of those services.
Q: Can your office perform a title search for me?
A: Office employees are not permitted to perform search work. A title search is a complicated process that includes searches in several other county offices, including potentially, the Recorder of Deeds, Prothonotary, Tax Claim Bureau, Register of Wills, and others. For more information regarding previously recorded papers you must come to the office or hire a title searcher, title insurance company, or attorney.
Q: Can I get information over the phone?
A: Yes, general information can be obtained by phone, but for more detailed information you should come into the office or retain a title searcher or attorney.
Q: Can I obtain a blank deed or power of attorney form from the office and just fill in the information?
A: Sorry, we do not provide blank forms or paperwork.
Q: If I bring a signed document to your office, can I have my signature notarized in your office?
A: Sorry, the Recorder of Deeds Office does not provide notary services.
RECORDING AND FILING DOCUMENTS
Q: How may I file a document to be recorded in your office?
A: You may present a document for recording at the front counter of the office, use e-recording, or you may submit the document by mail. The individual presenting the document must have the property identification number certified on the document by the Luzerne County Tax Assessor’s Office prior to recording. Please see our fee schedule for more information.
If you are recording in person at the Recorder of Deeds Office, it generally takes 10 to 15 minutes to review, receipt, and scan the documents. All papers presented to us for recording must be original documents, properly executed, signed, dated, and acknowledged before a Notary Public with the notary’s seal and signature before they can be accepted for recording. All recording fees and transfer taxes are payable at the time of recording.
If the document has met all the necessary requirements, the office will accept it for recording. It will be assigned an instrument number, a book and page, and it will be stamped with the time of recording and the recorder’s certification will be entered. Receipts are issued at the time of recording.
If the necessary requirements have not been met, the document will be rejected for recording until it is corrected. The recording of any document is not an approval of the contents of that document. The Recorder’s Office merely records what is presented to us and in no way do we certify that the contents are correct.
When documents have been officially recorded they are then indexed and entered into the computer system. The original documents are returned to the rightful owner(s) after all necessary recording procedures have been completed. The recorded original documents are immediately returned to the presenter (usually an individual, a title company, or an attorney). If you have not received your papers after two weeks, contact the person or firm who recorded them for you. Documents that are recorded by mail generally take a turn-around time of 5 to 10 days.
Q: Is it necessary for me to file my deed in the Recorder of Deeds Office?
A: A person is not required to file a deed in the Recorder of Deeds Office, the document is still binding; however, it is strongly recommended. By filing your deed and making it public record, you are shown to be the record owner of your property. One good reason to file is that the former owner can continue obtaining mortgages or judgements against your property since records in the courthouse would show that he/she still owned it. For further information, you should consult an attorney for a better explanation of the consequences of not recording a deed.
Q: I would like to pick up my deed. Can I come to the Recorder of Deeds for it?
A: Recorder of Deeds Office maintains copies of all documents recorded in the office. We do not keep original documents; they are returned to the person who recorded the document at the time of recording. You may obtain a copy of your deed in person, by fax, or mail.
Q: I just completed having a home built on my lot. Do I get a new deed?
A: This is currently not typical business practice in Pennsylvania. The property records stored in the Recorder of Deeds Office are for the parcels of property located in the county and the ownership of the parcel does not change if you erect on the lot – whether currently existing or if they are added at a later date. Check your deed for exceptions.
Q: I just sold my home. Can I keep the selling price of the transfer out of the newspaper?
A: Recorder of Deeds Office cannot prevent newspapers or the public from accessing and sharing the information that is public record in our office. The only exception is military discharge information (this is impounded and therefore confidential).
Q: Can I prepare my own deed?
A: You may prepare your own deed, however, we strongly recommend that you seek the assistance of a real estate professional like an attorney or title company for deed preparation.
Q: If I find a mistake in my deed, how do I correct it?
A: The only way to correct a deed is by recording a new deed. In this case, it is known as a deed of correction.
Q: If I find a mistake in my deed or I would like to add a spouse’s name or my children’s names to my deed, how do I get the deed changed?
A: You cannot alter any documents once they have gone on record. In order to replace the current deed for your property to reflect changes or corrections you will need to have a new deed prepared and recorded in this office. The only way to change the owner of record in the Recorder of Deeds Office is to have a new deed prepared, signed, and notarized. The Recorder of Deeds Office does not prepare legal documents; you simply bring your executed deed to our office when it is ready to record.
Q: Is it necessary to delete a deceased spouse’s name?
A: Generally it is not, if husband or wife held the property jointly as tenants by entireties. If the survivor sells or mortgages the property, he or she simply explains in the new deed or mortgage that the other spouse is deceased. There could be a special instance when, because of a legal situation, the name should be deleted. You should consult your attorney.
Q: If a woman marries. must she change her name on her deed?
A: It is not legally required, but again, because of a particular situation, it might be desirable. Consult your attorney.
Q: If I sell a portion of my land, do I get a deed for the remainder?
A: No. Records in the Courthouse show your original deed and the deed(s) for portions sold. Anyone searching records simply deducts the land you sold from the original deed.
Q: What is real estate transfer tax?
A: There is a state tax and a municipal tax each amounting to 1% of the value of the property or interest being conveyed (that is 2% total). For properties located in Wilkes-Barre City, the municipal tax is 2.5% (that is 3.5% total); for properties located in Kingston Borough and Hazleton City, 1.5% (that is 2.5% total). This value is not necessarily the sale price of the property; it may be computed on the fair market value of the property if the property is a gift, or under other special circumstances.
Q: Who pays the real estate transfer tax?
A: The state and local governments do not care who pays it as long as it is paid. The Recorder of Deeds Office cannot accept a deed unless the tax is paid at time of recording. In most sales agreements, the seller and the buyer split the tax.
Q: Are any transactions tax-exempt?
A: Some transactions are realty transfer tax-exempt. Conveyances between husband and wife, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, and brothers and sisters are generally exempt from transfer tax. There are some other exemptions allowed in certain situations. It is best to consult your attorney, contact our office, or contact the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue regarding special circumstances for exemptions or a partial exemption.
Q: What is a Statement of Value?
Q: When is a Statement of Value necessary?
A: A statement of value is required anytime the transfer tax is not paid or anytime the true value of the land is not shown on the deed (such as in a $1.00 consideration). State investigators then check the property and see if the value is as stated or if the reason given for exemption is valid.
Q: Do you record deeds for cemetery plots?
A: We do not typically record deeds for cemetery plots. A deed to a cemetery lot usually only gives you permission to use the ground. The cemetery still retains title to the ground. Such “Deeds” or “Titles” are maintained in the offices of the cemetery company.
MORTGAGES AND SATISFACTIONS
Q: I recently completed paying off my mortgage loan on my house. Isn’t the Recorder of Deeds Office supposed to send me my deed?
A: Actually, your original deed is returned to the person who presented it for recording at the time of recording. Even if you have a mortgage, secondary mortgage, or home equity loan outstanding on your home, you are still the owner of the property. You don’t get a new deed issued to you when you pay off a loan; your deed at time of purchase is still your deed.
Q: Who satisfies my mortgage?
A: The lender, also called the mortgagee, upon receiving all of the money due under the terms of your loan, is required to draft a satisfaction piece. In order to satisfy the mortgage of record and to show that the borrower, also called the mortgagor, has fully paid the loan, the satisfaction piece must be filed in the Recorder of Deeds Office. The lender may send the satisfaction piece directly to the Recorder of Deeds to be recorded, or they may send the satisfaction to the borrower, namely, you. By sending the unrecorded satisfaction to the borrower, the lender places the responsibility of recording on the borrower. Upon making the final payment, contact your lender to see how the satisfaction of the loan will be handled. If you receive satisfaction papers in the mail from your lender and you cannot determine whether they have been filed or not, please contact our office and we can check the status of your mortgage for you.
Q: If I receive an unrecorded satisfaction piece in the mail from my lender, what do I do?
A: The document may be presented at the front counter or mailed to the courthouse for recording. Please see our fee schedule or call the office for more information.
Q: Must a mortgage be satisfied?
A: No, but it is to your benefit. It will establish a clear title to your property.
Q: How can I check for leins against my property?
A: Except mortgages, most leins are filed in the Prothonotary’s Office, not in the Recorder of Deeds Office. You can check with them for liens filed against you there.
PROPERTY AND BUILDING INFORMATION
Q: How can I determine the boundaries of my property line?
A: Your deed will give you the legal description of your property but a surveyor is needed to use this information to actually locate your property lines and place stakes or other markers to indicate them. In some cases surveyors can locate markers that have already been placed when the lot was originally surveyed. We recommend that you have someone with some degree of expertise in this field, like a professional surveyor, help you determine the boundary lines of your property.
Q: How can I determine the age of my house?
A: It is difficult to determine the age of a house by checking deeds since a deed is typically intended to describe land and not the buildings erected on the land. Some deeds may mention when the structure was built and what type of structure is present. Recent recordings tend to give you less detailed information than the older deeds. The price of the conveyance may enable you to make a determination or a good guess as to when the structure was built. It is also possible that the municipality that you reside in may have this information on file, depending on the age of the house. In addition, the Luzerne County Assessor’s Office may also be helpful for information concerning more recent buildings.
Q: How can I trace the ownership of my property?
A: Following the legal description in your deed, there is a section known as “recital”. It usually begins with the word “Being…” This clause states the prior owner and how they obtained title to the property, i.e., deed book volume and page, date of deed and the recording date. You simply continue to go back and find the same information on each preceding transaction involving your property.
Q: How can I determine the owner of a property?
A: Our records are by name, not location or tax parcel number. That information is found in the Assessment Office. The Recorder’s indexes list all property transactions involving a particular person’s name.
NOTARY PUBLIC INFORMATION
Q: How do I become a notary public?
Once you completed the requirements for appointment as a notary public by the Commonwealth of PA, you have the responsibility to obtain a surety bond from a licensed insurance agent and to present all of your paperwork to the Record of Deeds Office within 45 days of appointment. An official from the Recorder of Deeds Office will swear you in as a notary public and administer the oath of office to you. The fee for recording a notary bond and commission is $35.50. After your commission is filed, you must report to the Luzerne County Prothonotary to file your signature card.
Q: As a notary, what do I do if I change my address?
A: If you move within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you are required to file a notary public change of address form with the Recorder of Deeds of the county in which you will be residing. The recording fee in Luzerne County is $23.50, but it varies from county to county, so it may be beneficial to call ahead if you are seeking to file a change of address in another county. You must also notify the Department of State of your move.
Q: As a notary, what do I do if I change my name?
A: If you legally change your name, you must file a notary public change of name form with the Recorder of Deeds Office. You must also notify the Department of State of your name change. The fee to file in Luzerne County is $23.50.
Q: Are there certain rules for plans?
A: Subdivision plans must be 24 by 36 inches. We need the original on Mylar/Vellum. The plans must be signed and sealed by the local governing body. It must then be signed by the local planning commission, the Luzerne County Planning Commission, the owner, and a notary, along with the signature of the surveyor and the surveyor’s seal. If the plans were approved, signed and sealed by the governing body more than 90 calendar days, we cannot accept them for recording per Act 247.
Q: Are subdivision plans required?