Recording Documents

Why do documents have to be recorded?

​Recording a document makes a public record of the transaction.

Your document is scanned and indexed for the permanent record. It is backed up on a redundant server, microfilm copies are made and stored in an optimal environment, and the recording data and images are made available to the public.

The recording office gives notice concerning ownership and encumbrances against real property, which can be located by all creditors, potential purchasers, and others with a financial interest in the property. Recorded documents are the only way to obtain clear title to a piece of property.

Lending institutions, title companies, surveyors, realtors, credit bureaus, attorneys, utility companies, and the public use our information regularly to do their jobs. Townships and cities, the Equalization Department, and the Treasurer’s office all receive first notice of sales from our office, which enables them to prepare valuations for the tax rolls each year.

And you, the owner, use our information. Imagine not knowing the rules and restrictions of a community before you buy into it. Or imagine your private easement over-run with traffic because the public doesn’t know it’s private. In fact, no rule or restriction can be enforced if people are not aware of it. This is the purpose of a public record.

How do I get my recorded document back?

​Most documents are now recorded electronically. The submitter, usually your title company or attorney, receives the recorded copy back immediately, as soon as it’s indexed. They can then provide you with the original and the recording information.

For hard copy submissions by mail or in-person, we require a SASE or $3 in postage paid at time of recording. Documents exceeding 15 pages may require additional postage based on weight and size or may be required to be picked up. We can usually mail it back within one to two weeks.

Alternately, you may supply an email address, and via the Swift program, you will receive the official recorded copy of your document as soon as it’s indexed, usually the same day it was recorded. This option is free.

Can I submit my document for recording electronically?

​We only accept electronic recordings through the following certified vendors:

CSC (866) 652-0111
ePN (888) 325-3365
Indecomm (877) 272-5250
Simplifile (800) 460-5657

The following documents cannot be recorded electronically:

  • Deeds with accompanying Valuation Affidavits
  • Plats
  • Master Deeds with accompanying large drawings
  • Amendments to Master Deeds if they have the accompanying large drawings

Can I record a copy of my document?

No, only documents with original signatures can be recorded. (The exception is Certified documents; see below.)

Even electronic recording services must scan only original documents for recording.

Can I record a copy of a court order or death certificate or survey?

No, these documents must all be Certified.

A Court Order must have a signed and sealed “Certified” statement. An original Death Certificate has special paper and possibly a raised seal. A Survey must have the surveyor’s original signature, seal, and Certified Survey statement.

Note: These Certified documents are NOT subject to the margin requirements, or notary acknowledgement or drafters.

How much does it cost to record a document?

The flat-rate recording fee is $30.00*.

If a document assigns or discharges more than 1 Liber/page or Document #, it will be charged an additional $3 to cross-reference each Liber/page or Document # after the first.

* $4 of this fee is deposited into the Michigan State Survey & Remonumentation (MSSR) fund as of 3/31/03.

There are possible additional fees for certain deeds. Please see the next two FAQ topics:

  • TAX CERTIFICATION: County Treasurer sticker showing taxes are all paid up and legal descriptions match tax roll.
  • TRANSFER TAX: Payable with any deeds that have a sale amount.​

What is a tax certification & which documents need one?

A Tax Certification is a sticker from the Treasurer’s Department denoting that all the taxes are paid up and the legal description matches the tax roll legal at the Township. This is part of the “guaranty” that makes for a “Warranty” Deed.

Tax Certifications are required before Recording for the following:

  • Warranty Deeds
  • Deeds that say “warrant” in the conveyance line
  • Land Contracts
  • Assignments of Land Contract (except those “as collateral”)
  • Master Deeds
  • Master Deed Amendments that add property to the Condo

A Tax Certification costs $5 for the first 25 Parcel numbers and $0.20 for each additional number.

If you are mailing one of the above documents for Recording, you can send the $5.00 in the package directly to the Register of Deeds and we’ll obtain the Tax Certification.

If you are e-recording a document that requires a Tax Certification, you will need to submit the document package through the Doc Router so it can be routed to BOTH departments.

What is transfer tax & are there exemptions?

When a sale amount is shown on a Deed or certain Easements, Transfer Tax is collected at the time of recording equal to .086 of the amount. This is broken down as follows: $1.10 per $1,000 goes to the County, and $7.50 per $1,000 goes to the State. The grantor on the document is the one who generally pays the Transfer Tax.

Note: The sales price is rounded up to the next higher $500 increment for purposes of calculating Transfer Tax. For example, a property selling for $100,000.01 would calculate Transfer Tax on the amount $100,500.00.

If the property description on the document is located in more than one county, the sales amount MUST be pro-rated by County on the face of the deed, and each County will only collect their percentage of the Transfer Tax.

There may be Transfer Tax Exemptions, based on the situation:

(A deed might be Exempt from only the State Transfer Tax, or from both Taxes, but will never be Exempt from only the County Tax.)

The CORRECT Exemption from the links above must appear on the face of the document. For example, if the “less than $100” exemptions are used: MCL 207.505 Sec.5 (a) and MCL 207.526 Sec.6 (a). . .but there is also showing the consideration amount of $5,000.00, the document will be rejected.

Common Exemption Errors are:

  • Parent-to-child or Grandparent-to-child Exemptions may not be used when the Grantor is a Trust. An individual must be the Grantor.
  • Churches are not automatically exempt from Transfer Tax. The exception is when non-taxable real estate is conveyed to another church and continues to remain non-taxable.
  • Sheriff’s Deeds are always exempt from State Transfer Tax. However, they are NOT automatically exempt from County Transfer Tax, unless the Mortgage is federally-backed as evidenced by the program’s initials and file # (which may be redacted.)

Rarely, Transfer Tax is also collected on Affidavits in which the transfer is not real estate but rather the controlling interest of one corporate entity into another.

Do you record fixture filings?

​Fixture Filings (along with their Amendments, Assignments, Continuations, Part Releases, and Terminations) are recorded here for $30 per document.

Make sure that the legal description is included on the original Fixture Filing, and that the boxes for “Fixture Filing” and “Real Estate” are checked.

All other Continuations, Terminations, etc., must have a Register of Deeds Document #.  Make sure it is our Document # format, or else you may be dealing with a Financing Statement.

Financing Statements (UCCs) are personal property liens which are filed with the Secretary of State. They do not involve real estate property

A document I sent in for recording was rejected. What should I do?

Rejected documents will include a rejection letter detailing the reasons for the document’s return. Please make all necessary corrections and resubmit to our Office.

It may be of help to consult the Recording Requirements.

If you have any questions or need help understanding the errors, please call us at (517) 546-0270 or come into our office at 200 E Grand River, Howell, MI 48843. Please have available the name on the document and the document type.

Deed Updates

How do I add or remove someone's name from my deed?

You cannot alter a document that has been signed and notarized, or recorded.

You will need a new deed where the existing owners sign the property over to all those they want to be the new owners, including themselves if applicable.​

My spouse or joint tenant died. How do I remove them from my deed?

​Recording their Death Certificate, along with the existing recorded deed, will show that you are now the sole owner of the property. You do not need a new deed.

When the time comes for you to sell the property, that deed will reference the recorded Death Certificate by Document #, explaining why that party in title is not signing off on the deed.

My parents had an enhanced life estate or ladybird deed. They have both passed. Do I need a new deed?

​No. The existing enhanced life estate deed becomes your proof of ownership as soon as you record the Death Certificates in our Office. All the recorded documents together determine ownership.

General Questions

What payment methods do you accept?

Cash, Check, and Credit Cards (with an added service fee pro-rated to the total amount of the Transaction.)

Although many of our services and copies can be billed by those with charge accounts, actual Recording Fees, including Transfer Tax, cannot be billed.

Can I get blank document forms from you & will you help me prepare them?

We don’t carry blank forms. You can obtain them from an office supply store, or online (for example search “blank quit claim deed.” Make certain they meet margin requirements; see Recording Requirements.)

We cannot give legal advice and therefore we cannot help you prepare a document, such as a deed and choosing the desired “tenancy” status. We highly recommend that you consult an estate attorney or a title company in preparing your deed.

Standard construction lien formats can be found at the State of Michigan site and several other places online.

Does my document need to be notarized & witnessed? Where can I find a notary public?

Most documents that are signed will need to be notarized. Exceptions are Certified Copy documents, such as Court Orders, Death Certificates or Surveys. See also Recording Requirements.

Michigan documents no longer require witnesses. (However, documents signed before 2002 must have witnesses.)

Our office has notaries for documents that are to be recorded in Deeds offices. You don’t have to use our notaries, though. Other Notary Publics may be found at banks, libraries, or the UPS store.

Searches & Copies - What kinds of information can be used to search in your office?

The best search is by name, because not all documents will have a legal description. For example, Discharges of Mortgage or some Court Orders, or certain liens that are against the individual and all property “they own or may own in the future.” There is no fee to search by name, and we have an online name search program free to everyone.

The most important documents will have legal descriptions, and that’s the other best search. Searching by legal description is called a tract search, and the database information we used to index legal descriptions is called a Tract Index.

Not all counties are required to keep a Tract Index, and unless you’re searching your own property, there is a fee of $10 per hour to use the Tract Index.

We can also search by Tax Code Number or by Address, but because these items aren’t required for recording, be aware that searches by either of these will return incomplete results.

Who can get a copy of my recorded documents? Can you email me a copy?

“Public record” means that anyone can view and purchase any recorded documents.​

Copies are $1 per page, while Plat/Condo drawings (larger) are $2 a page.

To CERTIFY a copy costs $5, and you must purchase ALL the pages for it to be considered a Certified Copy.


Copies can be purchased through the Deeds Search online free-name search. The cost is $1 per page plus an Online Convenience Fee which covers Credit Card fees. You will immediately be sent a link which you can print out.

Certain documents can be purchased online, but cannot be accessed immediately with a link, they will need to be mailed:

  • Certified copies can be bought online but must be mailed because original signatures and seals are what constitute the Certification.
  • Death Certificates and Tax Liens, because the online service cannot properly redact Social Security Numbers, will also be mailed after you purchase them online. (In special cases, if you need these documents immediately, call us and we may be able to email redacted versions right away, if pre-paid: see below.)
  • Condo Master Deeds or any document exceeding 75 pages cannot be viewed online and must be mailed after you buy them.
  • Larger-sized Plat/Condo drawings CANNOT be purchased online, but can be mailed when copies and postage are pre-paid (see below.)


We will email document copies that pre-date our online system only if you have a current charge account in good standing with us, or if you can provide Credit Card info over the phone prior to the email. Fax/email fees are as follows:

1-10 pages = $2     11-20 pages = $4

21-30 pages = $6     31-40 pages = $8

…And so on, $2 for every 10 pages

Service Fee for use of Credit Cards over the phone or in-person.

Note: The emailed return of Recorded documents to the submitter same day via the Swift program is free.

Please be aware that if you don’t already know the Document # or Liber/page you wish to purchase, we may charge a $5 fee to search for the document for you in addition to the copy, email & credit card fees.

Does your office do title searches or furnish abstracts/titles to property?

No.​ Title companies perform and insure title searches, whereas our deputies can provide no “guarantee.” Title companies may also make use of other sources we cannot, such as Probate Court records.

While we can help the public on quick searches in our Office or over-the-phone, either of which may cost $5, our computers and tract index books are set up so the public may search for themselves. We will show you how.

Can I obtain land record searches or documents through FOIA?

​No, all documents in our Office are public information or covered by state statute, and therefore not subject to FOIA. The copy fees for documents are set by state statute.

How far back are your records imaged & digitally indexed?

Documents recorded since 11-7-1980, or Liber 1000, are both Indexed and Imaged on the computer. (We are constantly working backwards to Index more documents.)

Some earlier records are also Indexed, for ex, Libers 27 through 37, or 3-29-1856 through 11-20-1866, roughly.

Libers 1 – 26 and Libers 192 – 1004 have Images on the computer but are not yet computer Indexed, with exceptions.

Libers 38 – 191 are currently only in hard copy form.

If I only have an address & need to find the owner or the legal description to place a lien, can you help?

If all you know is an Address or Parcel #, a preliminary Treasurer’s Property Search can be used to find a name or legal description to search.

That information can be used to locate the last deed of record and the legal description. (We cannot verify property ownership. It is possible that there may be unrecorded documents affecting ownership like Land Contracts for even Deeds.)

Can I pay you for a computer print-out "report" or list of recorded documents?

To request and pre-pay for a Report (unless you have a charge account,) contact Gabriella at (517) 540-8822 or with your report parameters to find out the cost (below.) If you want the Report emailed, there will be an additional charge outlined in Email Fees. (Note: The emailed report will be a scanned image file and NOT digital.)

Send the check and report request attention: Gabriella and include a self addressed stamped envelope if you haven’t requested by email.

Please specify Report Type:

There are two types of Reports* (level of detail.) Each cost the same to run, but more detail means more pages, as follows:

  • $5 per Search (name, doc type + date range, legal description)        PLUS
  • $1 per # of pages in print-out

*Results Report will show one line per name or Document, and will include: Name, Recorded Doc #, Doc Type, Date Recorded.

Results Report has 42 lines per print-out page.

*Details Report will show all Indexed info for each Document, including: Doc #, all Party names, Doc date and Recording date, # of pages in doc, sale-mortgage-lien amount, any Associated docs, and if on the recording: short legal description, Tax Parcel #, address of property.

DETAILS: Report averages three or four Documents per print-out page.

I paid off my mortgage. How do I get a copy of my new deed?

Paying off a mortgage does not generate a new Deed. You will receive a Discharge of Mortgage (also known as a Mortgage Release or Mortgage Satisfaction.)

Your deed, which is your “title” or proof of ownership, is what you received after you first purchased the property. Mortgages can change services and holders,  but your deed remains yours as it was presented to you.

You can get a copy of your Discharge at our Online Deeds Search or in our Office for about $1-2.

If you cannot find your deed, you can get a certified copy from the online link above (it will be mailed) or at our Office.

Do I have lake rights, any easements, or a maintenance agreement on my property?

If you received title insurance and a recording package when you purchased the property, the title company has already researched your property. You will want to check your policy or contact the title insurance company. If you visit our Office with the legal description of the property, our staff can set you up to research our records.

Lake access, restrictions, or maintenance agreements may be a part of your deed, or they may be recorded as a separate document. In the case of older subdivisions they might be listed only on the “first deed out (from the developer)” and will run with the property.

Sometimes lake access and easements can only be found in the “Dedication” or “Proprietor’s Certificate” on the Plat drawing itself. Register of Deeds staff cannot tell you if you do or do not have Lake Rights. We can only provide you with the information that has been previously recorded.

Do you have a survey of my property?

We might, if it’s unplatted property. Historically, not all surveys have been recorded because surveyors keep all their work, and if we don’t have a survey, chances are a local surveyor does. (Email or text a photo of your deed or tax statement to a surveyor. If they didn’t do the survey, they often will know who did.)

However, if you live in a Platted Subdivision or a Condominium or a Site Condo (one-house, one-lot so it resembles a Subdivision,) then the recorded Plat or Master Deed drawings are your official property survey, and we can provide them.

Only Certified Surveys may be recorded. Mortgage Surveys, proposals, and sketches are not accepted.

Bear in mind that just because a survey is recorded doesn’t mean the split was approved by the Township, or that it is the final version of the survey that exists. Neither does a Survey have the power to convey property or create an easement. Only a signed and notarized deed or agreement can do these things.

Can you recommend a surveyor to me?

As a government agency we cannot endorse one professional over another.

However, surveyors give free quotes so you can compare. And the cheapest surveyor doesn’t mean they’re the worst surveyor. Usually it simply means they’ve done the most work already in that particular part of the County.​

How do I understand tract information & how is the county divided up?

In our County (not all Counties are as regular, and on the East Coast they aren’t even square) there are 16 Townships, and each Township has 36 Sections. Each Section is about one mile square.

A Section Of Land, 640 Acres

Property is usually described with a starting point of one of the Corners of a Quarter Section. Today, property is measured in feet and tenths of an inch (not inches,) but when Michigan became a State, surveyors used the Chain-Rod-Link system.

Surveyors measured the ground with actual Chains of a standard length. The distance of a Chain was derived from the mile system; if you keep dividing down from the 5280 feet of a mile, you reach a 66 foot chain. This is also why a standard City Lot in our downtowns is 66 x 132 feet. Picture early surveyors marking off a Corner every 40 chains, or half-mile, until they traversed the entire state, which at the time was uncleared, forested swamp.

You may even see today on a survey the latest system for locating Points of Beginning: Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates, which are determined by use of satellite. The latest Remonumentation Corners situate the corners not only in relation to each other, as they always have, but now also give GPS coordinates and even Latitude and Longitude, since technology now allows them to do so.

Long Measure Square Measure
1 Mile 80 chains
320 rods
5280 feet
1 Square Mile Regular section 640 acres
1 Acre 10 square chains
160 square rods
43,560 square feet
1 Chain 4 rods
66 feet
100 links
An Acre is about 208 3/4 feet square. An Acre is 8 rods wide by 20 rods long, or any area the product whose length by its width (in rods) is 160 or in chains is 10.
1 Rod 5 1/2 yards
16 1/2 feet
25 links
1 Square Rod 30 1/4 square yards
  272 1/4 square feet
1 Square Foot 144 square inches
1 Link .66 feet or 7 7/8 inches    
Note: Acreage of farm property usually figured to center of road.

Register Of Deeds Property Graphic

When was my house built?

Our Office does not have this information. Deeds are for the real estate property and legal description. Rarely is it stated if the land was vacant at the time of sale.

Please check with your local City or Township Assessor’s Office. Additionally, the Howell Carnegie Library Reference desk can help you search for information in the Archives. Call them at (517) 546-0720.

Note: Our Office may still be of help before you visit these other locations:

  • Often when you have a list of early owners it will be easier to locate houses and farms in the Archives.
  • If you have the time to search our older records, it’s not exact, but if you can find a deed with a purchase amount much lower than a simultaneous mortgage, chances are that owner is building a house.
  • A final resource is the Plat Book for the years 1875-1895-1915. They show existing homesteads, and the 1875 book also shows the existing houses in the towns at that time.

Does your office help with genealogy searches?

You may ​use our records for your inquiries, however we do not do the searches for you.
We have various name indexes dating back to the beginning of our recorded documents in 1836-37. The Grantor/Grantee indexes reflect the documents recorded in the Tract Index. This source includes the property legal descriptions. The “Black Books” are useful in locating Wills or Death Certificates of individuals who died outside Livingston County. Black Books can also be used to find other documents that did not have legal descriptions when recorded.

What is your part in the Sheriff's deed process? Can you collect the redemption amount?

A Sheriff’s Deed is recorded at the close of the auction, usually within two weeks. Prior to recording, contact the Sheriff’s Office at (517) 546-2440.​

Once recorded, the Sheriff’s Deed and its Redemption information are available for the rest of the Redemption period and beyond. If not redeemed, the Sheriff’s Deed perfects and becomes an actual deed of ownership.

The Registrar may calculate and collect the Redemption amount, interest and fees. However, there may be other fees payable before the property is considered redeemed, such as taxes paid by the holder of the Sheriff’s Deed.

Register of Deeds
Jenny Nash, Livingston County Treasurer

Brandon Denby
Register of Deeds

Brandon Barefield
Chief Deputy



(517) 546-0270


Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed County Holidays

Historical Courthouse

200 E Grand River Ave
Howell, MI 48843