FARMINGTON Starting in January, just more than half of the county recorders around Utah will begin charging a fee of $2 per page of nonstandard documents filed in their offices.
Most documents, which come from title companies, are filed on regular 8 1/2-by-11-inch white paper, but many documents that come from outside the state are filed on double-sided, colored or legal-size sheets, which make scanning documents more difficult and time-consuming.
Some documents fail to leave a space for the recorder's stamp, which shows a document was officially received.
Of Utah's 29 county recorders, those in Box Elder, Carbon, Davis, Emery, Iron, Juab, Millard, Morgan, Sanpete, Sevier, Tooele, Utah, Washington, Wayne and Weber have given the required 90 days notice and will begin charging the fee for noncompliant documents.
Most recorders contacted by the Deseret Morning News said they would prefer not to charge a fee at all, because that wasn't the point of HB200, which was sponsored by Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, and passed unanimously during the 2007 Legislature.
"We want to have a better product to offer the public in their public records," said Davis County Recorder Richard Maughan. "If we don't collect a single dollar extra, it would be a blessing to us, because it would mean we are getting better documents which conform to a recognized standard of excellence."
Various recorders also said since they began sending notice of the impending change to the companies they deal with on a daily basis, they've noticed a higher compliance and more standard documents.
Utah County Recorder Randy Covington said about 40 percent of the documents filed in his office don't comply because they are either too big, printed on both sides or don't leave room for a recording stamp.
For those infractions, Covington's office will charge the $2 fee per noncompliant page.
The move toward standardization began in 1998, Covington said, because various companies, in an effort to cram more information on pages, reduced the font size so much that documents became illegible.
Two national associations of recorders took up the issue and an industry group, the Property Records Industry Association, created a standard that has been adopted, in some form, by most states. In 2000, the most recent year for which data were available, 38 states had set standards. And Utah joined the group this year.
Covington said local title companies were the first to comply with the standard, adding that national companies won't seem to get the message until the nonstandard documents hit them in the pocketbooks.
The 14 county recorders who have chosen not to implement the fee declined for various reasons.
Recorders in Cache, Salt Lake and Wasatch are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"We would prefer voluntary compliance," Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott said in an e-mail. "If the recorder determines the need, he will require compliance. A formal 90-day notice will be given prior to implementation of the new statute."
In Duchesne County, Recorder Carolyne Madsen said many of the documents filed in her office are large oil and gas leases. Those leases are filed on standard, legal-sized paper at 8 1/2 by 14 inches. Because her office is accustomed to handling those documents, there's no reason to change now, Madsen said.
"It would be a disservice to a lot of our customers from out of state," she said.
Various recorders, including Summit County's Alan Spriggs, said they figure that once Utah's larger counties begin charging the fee, even more businesses will comply with the standards.
"We'll get the benefit of that," Spriggs said.
Beaver County Recorder Bruce Brown said he's glad the Utah statute makes the fee optional for recorders, because his office has no problem processing larger documents."I'm not a subscriber to one-size-fits-all," Brown said.