Clerk-Recorder FAQs

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Recording Documents

Does your office provide legal forms? If not, where do we get them?

Our office does not provide legal forms. Although we would like to give you as much information as possible, under California law, we are prohibited from providing any legal advice. This includes advising what document to record, providing any legal forms and assisting with the preparation of any legal documents. It is recommended that you seek assistance from an attorney or authorized individual. Legal forms can also be obtained from the Law Library, stationery stores or online.

Can your office help with a title search on property?

The Recorder Division does not conduct title searches. We maintain the official archive of legally recordable transactions so that members of the public can come in and conduct their own searches.

Your office recorded a lien against me. I want it removed.

The County Recorder cannot release a lien from the official record. You must contact the agency, person or person’s attorney who claimed the lien against you to resolve the lien. Once the lien is paid/resolved, the claimant will issue the release.

If the lien cannot be resolved, you can go to court to resolve the issue. You may want to contact your attorney for assistance.

I paid off a lien and the release has already been recorded. Why is it still showing on my credit report?

When Releases are recorded, the Recorder Division does not notify any agencies. To remove the lien from your credit report, you can obtain a recorded copy of the Release from our office and forward it to each of the credit reporting bureaus.

What are the time limits on certain documents (e.g. Mechanic’s Liens, Abstracts of Judgment, Notices of Completion)?

The Recorder Division cannot give out legal information regarding documents. You may want to look up such information at a law library or contact your attorney for assistance.

I have a filed-stamped copy of a court order/judgment. Can this be recorded in your office?

No. You will need to obtain a certified copy of the court order/judgment (signed, dated and sealed by the court clerk certifying that the copy is a true and correct copy of the original). The certified copy of the court order/judgment can be recorded in our office.

I just paid off my mortgage.  When will I get my new Deed?

Purchasing a house is different from purchasing a car in that the “title” to your car is issued when the car loan is paid off. When you purchase a house, the Deed or “title” to your house is recorded when escrow closes.  That recorded Deed is then mailed to you approximately 4-6 weeks after the recording date.  Whether or not you have a mortgage against your house does not change the “title” to your house, unless you subsequently recorded another Deed to change “title” (e.g. adding/removing a spouse, transferring title to your trust).

I just received a suspicious-looking document from your office called Substitution of Trustee and Deed of Full Reconveyance. What is it and should I be worried?

A Substitution of Trustee and Deed of Full Reconveyance (or sometimes just a Deed of Full Reconveyance) is recorded when a mortgage is paid off. The language on the document may be confusing but you should not be worried.

If the property is in the City of San Mateo, why do I have to fill out another tax declaration?

The City of San Mateo is the only city for which the county collects city conveyance tax. The City of San Mateo conveyance tax is due at the time of recording, levied at a rate of $5 per thousand, based on the purchase price or fair market value of the real property interest conveyed, unless a valid exemption is cited.

Please note that the allowable exemptions for the City of San Mateo conveyance tax and the Documentary Transfer Tax are separate and may differ.

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Fictitious Business Names

When must I file a Fictitious Business Name Statement?

You can file before you make your first transaction. In any case you must file within 40 days of making your first transaction.
 

Is a Fictitious Business Name Statement good forever?

No. You must update it every five years, even if no information about your business has changed.
 

Where do I file and/or to whom is the check written?

Fictitious Business Name Statements must be filed with the County Clerk in which the registrant has his or her principal place of business. If filing in San Mateo County please write the check to the San Mateo County Clerk. 
 

May I have more than one Fictitious Business Name Statement on file?

Yes. You may have as many Fictitious Business Name Statements on file as you have separate businesses. Also, there may be more than one registrant listed on your Fictitious Business Name Statement.
 

Does filing a Fictitious Business Name Statement automatically guarantee that no other business is using my name?

No, it does not reserve the name for your exclusive use. The filing is for consumer protection, and is under requirement under law. Applicants, not the county, are responsible for verifying that the business name used is unique. The applicant also is responsible for verifying that the name does not violate any trademark protocols. The County Clerk’s Division will search Fictitious Business Name Statements on file for a fee.

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Documentary Transfer Tax Affidavit

Who can sign the affidavit?

Only one person must sign the Tax Affidavit. The transferor/transferee of the conveyance or an attorney/representative with full knowledge of the transaction can sign the Tax Affidavit

I am recording a Deed and it is exempt from Documentary Transfer Tax.  Do I still need to submit a Tax Affidavit?

Yes. The Tax Affidavit is submitted to help explain the nature of the transaction and the validity of the claimed DTT exemption. Be sure to attach any required supporting documentation to prove that your claimed DTT exemption is valid.

I am recording an Affidavit of Death. Do I need to submit a Tax Affidavit?

No. The Tax Affidavit is currently only required for the following documents: Deeds (including Grant, Quitclaim, Interspousal, Trust Transfer and Warranty Deeds), Leases, Memorandum of Leases, Assignment of Leases, Easements, Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure, Land Contracts and Agreements for Sale.

I am adding my spouse to title and I am claiming that the DTT exemption of “Gift”.  Do both of us need to sign the Tax Affidavit?

No. Only the Donor is required to sign the gift tax disclaimer under question 4 on the Tax Affidavit. The Tax Affidavit itself (2nd page) can be signed by either party or a representative with full knowledge of the transaction.

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Form 700

I am running for office. Do I have to file a Conflict of Interest Statement (Form 700)?

Candidates running for local elective offices (for example, county sheriffs, city clerks, school board trustees, and water district board members) must file candidate statements, as required by the conflict-of-interest code for the elected position.

If you are filing a statement in connection with your candidacy for state or local office, investments, interests in real property, and business positions held on the date of filing your declaration of candidacy must be reported.  In addition, income (including loans, gifts, and travel payments) received during the 12 months prior to the date of filing your declaration of candidacy is reportable.  Do not change the preprinted dates on Schedules A-1, A-2, and B.

I am a newly elected/appointed official or board member that filed a Conflict of Interest Statement (Form 700) as a candidate. Do I also have to file an assuming office statement now that I am in office?

The answer is, “Yes”. Investments, interests in real property, and business positions held on the date you assumed the office or position must be reported. In addition, income (including loans, gifts, and travel payments) received during the 12 months prior to the date you assumed the office or position is reportable.

I am a reelected official or board member. Do I have to file an assuming office statement?

If you complete a term of office and, within 30 days, begin a new term of the same office (for example, you are reelected or reappointed), you are not required to file an assuming office statement.  Instead, you may file the next annual statement due.

Example:  Last day of term is October 30, 2007 and beginning of new term is November 6, 2007 (you only need to file an annual statement)

If there is a lapse of more than 30 days, from the last day of term and the beginning of the new term, you have to file a leaving office and an assuming office statement. Investments, interests in real property, and business positions held on the date you assumed the office or position must be reported. In addition, income (including loans, gifts, and travel payments) received during the 12 months prior to the date you assumed the office or position is reportable.

Example:  Last day of term is June 20 (leaving office statement required) and beginning of new term is August 10 (assuming office statement required).

I am a newly elected/appointed official or board member. What is my assuming office date?

Elected officials are deemed to assume office on the date they are sworn in. Non-elected officials assume office on the date they are authorized to serve or on the date they are sworn in.

Investments, interests in real property, and business positions held on the date you assumed the office or position must be reported.  In addition, income (including loans, gifts, and travel payments) received during the 12 months prior to the date you assumed the office or position is reportable.

When should I file an assuming office statement or leaving office statement?

A designated filer must file within 30 days of assuming office or within 30 days of the effective date of a newly adopted or amended conflict-of-interest code.

Example:  Date of assuming office is July 1, 2007

Officials leave office on the day they stop performing their official duties. (See FPPCs Regulation 18722 for more information.).  A leaving office statement must be filed within 30 days from the date a filer left office or ceased performing their official duties.

Example:  Date of leaving office is August 10, 2007

Filers who leave office between January 1, 2008, and April 1, 2008, may file a combination annual/leaving office statement instead of two separate statements as long as the statement is filed within 30 days of leaving office or by April 1, 2008, whichever is earlier.

Example:  Date of leaving office is March 19, 2008

I am a city council member but also a board member of one of the county agencies. How should I file?

If you hold multiple positions (for example, a city council member who also is a member of a county board or commission), you may be required to file statements with each agency. To simplify your filing obligations, you may complete an expanded statement.

To do this, enter the name of the other agency(ies) with which you are required to file and your position title(s) in the space provided.  Attach an additional sheet if necessary. Complete one statement covering the disclosure requirements for all positions. Each copy must contain an original signature. Therefore, before signing a statement, make a copy for each agency. Sign each copy with an original signature and file with each agency. Be aware of the jurisdictions.

Example:  You are a city council member (Redwood City) and a board member of the Civil Service Commission (San Mateo County)

I assumed office on November 1, 2007. Do I have to file an annual statement that is due on April 1, 2008?

Last Quarter assuming individuals who assumed office between October 1, 2007, and December 31, 2007, and filed assuming office statements are not required to file the 2007 annual statement. The next annual statement (2008) should cover the day after their assuming office date through December 31, 2008, and will be due on April 1, 2009.

Example:  Assumed office on November 1, 2007

1. Assuming Office Statement due within 30 days from Nov.1st

2. Annual Statement due on April 1, 2009