Land record systems are in place across the United States to keep track of property ownership, property taxes and other related issues. Generally, these duties are divided by counties, under the control of the county recorder of deeds, clerk of court or register. When official property documents, such as grant deeds, are submitted to county official to be recorded, the county files the document using its specific system. Some counties choose to use instrument numbers as a record-keeping method.
Grant deeds are commonly used in the state of California when property is sold. This type of deed is similar to a warranty deed. Warranty deeds provide the buyer, or grantee, with the knowledge that they are receiving the property with no liens attached and that no one else can claim ownership. The warranty deed also states that the seller, or grantor, will provide legal aid to the grantee if a claim on the property does arise in the future. The grant deed does not generally carry this warranty.
State and county law require grant deeds to include certain information in order for them to be deemed valid and recordable. In California, the grantor and grantee's names must be listed and spelled correctly. A return address must be listed for the recorder to return the document. The standard paper size is 8.5 by 11 inches. Larger paper sizes are charged an additional recording fee. Documents submitted for recording must contain original signatures. The signatures must be acknowledged by a notary public using a standard California all-purpose acknowledgment form. A preliminary change of ownership report form may need to be completed in some cases.
When the deed is complete, it can be presented to the county recorder. Each county assess a recording fee, which will vary. Make sure to bring a check or cash in the correct amount to the recorder's office. If transfer taxes are applicable, they are due at this time as well. The recorder reviews the document for accuracy and check the amount owed. If everything is correct, the document is submitted for recording.
Many counties use instrument numbers, or document numbers, to organize the deeds and property documents filed on record. The specific numbering system varies by county. Some use a date and time method, while others use a continuous numbering approach. When the document is submitted for recording it is generally computer scanned and copied into an archive system. Then, it is assigned an instrument number in sequence. After the system assigns the number, it is stamped onto the actual deed. Some counties also use a scannable barcode with the instrument number that can be printed onto the deed. The instrument number will be found on the first page of the recorded deed when it is returned to the grantee. This number can be used to reference or search for the deed in the future.