Frequently Asked Questions
Register of Deeds
Court House
200 E Grand River Ave
Howell, MI 48843
Monday – Friday
8am – 5pm
Phone: 517.546.0270
Tract Phone: 517.546.2530
Fax: 517.546.5966

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on + for more information.
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Do you 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 get blank document forms from you and 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 Requirments.) 

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.

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.

Searches and 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.

But 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.

Do you do genealogy searches?,

We do not do the searches for you.  However, you may ​use our records for your inquiries. 

We have various name indexes from the very beginning of our recorded documents, which is about 1836-37. The Grantor/Grantee indexes reflect the documents recorded in the Tract Index, that is, the ones with legal descriptions. The "Black Books" are useful in locating Wills or the Death Certificates of those who died outside Livingston County, and other documents that did not have legal descriptions.

How far back are your records Imaged and Digitally Indexed?,

Documents recorded since the start of 1981, or Liber 1005, are both Indexed and Imaged on the computer. (We are constantly working backwards to Index more documents.)

Libers 1 - 37 and Libers 192 - 1004 have Images on the computer but are not yet computer Indexed.

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

When was my house built?,

Our office does not have this information; deeds are for the property and almost never state if it's vacant at the time of sale. 

Please check with your local city or township assessor's office. A full list of offices is available here. Additionally, the Howell Carnegie Library Reference desk can help you search for information in the Archives. Call 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 my document need to be notarized and 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.

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.

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 $1 in postage paid at time of recording. We can usually mail it back within a week or two.

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 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.

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

"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 SS #'s, will also be mailed after you purchase them online. (In special cases, if you need these documents immediately, phone the office 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.

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 2 weeks.  Prior to recording, contact the Sheriff's department  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.

What is Transfer Tax and 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.

How do I get to the Register of Deeds office?,

We are located in downtown Howell in the brick and sandstone old Courthouse with a clock tower. The Courthouse is in the 200 block of E. Grand River Avenue, on the north side. Our office is on Floor 3. You are welcome to use the elevator.

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 recieve 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.

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 come into the 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.

But what if I only have an address and I need to find the owner, or the legal description to place a lien?,

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

Then we can locate the last deed of record and the legal description. (We cannot verify property ownership. There may always be unrecorded Land Contracts or even Deeds.)

We can also help you search for open liens on the property, or for Restrictions or Condominium documents.

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 one Liber/page or Document #, it will be charged an additional $3.00 to cross-reference each Liber/page or Document # after the first.

* $4.00 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 Q/A 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.​

How do I add or remove someone's name on 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 parents deeded property to me upon their deaths (had an enhanced life estate or ladybird deed) and now they both have 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.

My spouse or joint tenant died; how do I remove him/her from the 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.

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.​

Can I submit my document for recording electronically?,

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

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
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 our office 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.

I paid off my mortgage; how do I get a copy of my new deed?,

​You don't get a deed, you get a Discharge of Mortgage (also known as a Mortgage Release or Mortgage Satisfaction). 

Your one deed, which is your "title" or proof of ownership, is what you received after you first purchased the property. Mortgages come and go, but your deed remains yours. 

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.

Can I obtain land record searches or documents through FOIA?,

​No, all documents in this 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 do I understand Tract Information and how the County was 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 1 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 MeasureSquare Measure
1 Mile

80 chains

320 rods

5280 feet

1 Square MileRegular 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 Rod30 1/4 square yards
272 1/4 square feet
1 Square Foot144 square inches
1 Link.66 feet or 7 7/8 inches
Note: - Acreage of farm property usually figured to center of road.
What is the Remonumentation Program?,
The Remonumentation Plan for Livingston County was adopted in 1992 as required by Act 345 of the State Public Acts of 1990.  An excerpt from the County Plan provides a brief summary of its intention:

Implementing the county monumentation program would mark the first time in 175 years that a concerted effort was made to do this critically needed job.  Since the 1850s, there has been no statewide effort to validate (section) corners, even though surveyors’ tools have advanced from a 66-foot chain and a compass to a technological arsenal that includes a device that gives automatic measurements of angles between corners, and instruments that bounce a signal off a satellite to determine the exact longitude and latitude of a given point (Global Positioning System, GPS).  Orderly, consistent Remonumentation with standardized markers would assist in the documentation and planning of roads and utilities, the (location) of public and private property, the settlement of ownership claims and disputes, and the provision of a central data base containing information on counties and townships throughout the State.  Completion of the Remonumentation system in a county would enable the county to implement a computerized mapping system that would include the precise location of roads, utilities and property lines; the corners would serve as the foundation for such a map.

What does it do?

Our Plan results in standardized section corner markers made of durable materials that should withstand the weather, in addition to roadway maintenance over an extended period of time.  The section corner location is approved by the County Peer Group based on the recommendation of a contracted Professional Surveyor.  The Peer Group consists of Professional Surveyors from the area who review historical data for each corner in the program.

How does it work?

Each county has a County Representative and Grant Administrator that reports to the state.  They oversee this plan at the county level.
A list of section corners to be remonumented is approved each year.  Contracts are awarded to qualified Professional Surveyors who indicate they wish to remonument the corners in a certain township.  The surveyor researches the history of each corner from the present location back to the original setting in the 1800s.  Based on the information they find, the contractor makes a recommendation to the Peer Group for the location of the corner.  The Peer Group analyzes the information and either accepts the recommendation or requests additional information be provided.  If approved, the contractor then replaces the existing monument with the County approved 1 ¼” x 36” pipe and a brass cap marked with the corner code and monumenting surveyor’s license number.  A “Corner Recordation Form” is filed for each corner at the Register of Deeds office.

Will this move my property corner?

​No, property descriptions are “tied” to these section corners.  The only thing that is affected is the distance from a section corner to your property.  In the case of large acreage parcels of land, a more accurate measurement is often provided for each half-mile around the section.

Who pays for this?

​The Remonumentation Plan is funded in part by the State with the remainder provided by County funds.  The funds come from part of the cost of recording documents at the Register of Deeds office. 

How are we doing?

​Livingston County began work on this project is 1993.  Since that time we have remonumented over 3100 section corners. The State set this up as a 20-year program and we have met this time constraint without any problems.  Currently there is a maintenance program in place, and GPS stations are being determined at viable corners.
The state has established a database for section corner information.  We have acquired some coordinate information using the Global Positioning System (GPS, see excerpt above) methods.  This helps provide accurate measurements throughout each township.  Livingston County has recently established a countywide Geographic Information System (GIS) that is utilizing some of the information generated by the Remonumentation plan.

How do I get more information?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this program, please contact the County Representative or Grant Administrator through the Register of Deeds office at 517-546-0270.
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/faxed, there will be an additional charge outlined in Fax/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 SASE if you haven't requested fax or email.

Please specify Report Type:

There are 2 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 3 or 4 Documents per print-out page.

What is a Tax Certification and which documents need one?,

A Tax Certification is a sticker from the Treasurer's Dept. 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 $5.00 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. 

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.