Document Standardization Guide

Effective January 1, 1997, all documents submitted for recording in Washington State must conform to standards set by RCW 36.18 and 65.04. These standards were enacted to make documents more accessible to the public by bringing the most important information to the document's first page, thus aiding document indexing and research. Documents that do not conform to the standards will sadly be returned for correction.

The following list summarizes these requirements, with more detailed information accessible by clicking the link. Certain information or formatting shortcomings can be corrected with the addition of a cover page. Please add $1.00 to the fee for the cost of recording the extra page if this option is taken.

First Page Requirements

  • Margins: Top margin must be at least 3" , all others, 1" . Aside from the return address in the top three inch margin, all margins must be clear. No additional addresses, bar codes, company logos, hole punches, line numbers, order numbers, page numbers, tracking numbers, headers, footers, notary or other seals, signatures, initials, etc., may be placed in any margin. You may place this information on the document, just keep it within the required margins.
  • Return Address: The return address should be placed within the three-inch top margin in the upper left portion of the first page. The original document will be returned to whatever address is indicated in that spot.
  • Title(s): listed just below the 3" top margin of the first page. If using a cover sheet, the title(s) on the cover sheet must be the same as the title(s) on the document.
  • Grantor(s) AND Grantee(s): The party listed as the document's grantor is typically yielding something to another party, be it a property conveyance or a promise to repay a mortgage. In all but a few cases, the person that signs the document is the grantor. A lien or judgment debtor is also a grantor, though in this case the "granting" may be somewhat involuntary and the document will be not be signed by them. To find the appropriate party/parties to place in this field, you can view or download "Document Titles".
  • Reference Number: A reference number is the Auditor's File Number (AFN) and volume and page (if applicable) of the document being assigned, released, referenced, terminated or amended. In addition to fulfilling statutory and practical requirements, this enables documents to be electronically linked.
  • Entire or Abbreviated Legal Description: If the entire legal description is on the first page, there is no need or requirement to also abbreviate it on the first page. In cases where the entire legal description does not appear on the first page it must be abbreviated on the first page of the document or cover sheet with a reference to the page number where the entire legal description is located. Appropriate abbreviations are: Lot Block Subdivision
    or
    Section-Township-Range quarter-quarter section (i.e., 04-20-22 NE NE) Please Note: It is not acceptable to put "See attached" or "refer to Appendix A" in place of abbreviating the legal description.
  • Assessor's Parcel Number: The Assessor's 12-digit tax parcel number must appear on the first page of the document/cover sheet if a legal description is included in the document. If there are too many parcel numbers to fit on the first page, you can enter what will fit and reference the page number where the remainder are located. If you need help finding the number you can refer to your tax statement or contact the County Assessor's Office. If the parcel number has not yet been assigned, put "Not Yet Assigned" in the space for parcel number. If a parcel number is on the document, the legal description must also be included.

Requirements for all pages, including the first

  • Legibility: The text must be crisp enough to distinguish each character individually. Faxed copies frequently fail to produce an acceptable image. Care must be taken to ensure that the receiving fax is capable of producing an image suitable for recording. The paper used must also be of a weight and color capable of producing legible images. Watermarks and highlighted text in the body of document also create problems where the contrast between text and page is reduced to the point of obliterating text clarity when scanned, copied or filmed.
  • Font: The font size must be eight (8) point type or larger. Smaller than that is very difficult to read, and does not image or reproduce easily. This is eight point font.
  • Margins: at least 1" all around, except first top page
  • Page Size: 8.5" x 11" minimum, 8.5" x 14" maximum. The paper must be of a weight and color that will image clearly.
  • Attachments: No attachment may be affixed to documents presented for recording. Attachments, for purposes of this legislation, refers to notary seals, sticky notes, or other items stapled, taped, etc. on the face of the document. Attachment does not refer to additional pages added to the end of a document such as addenda, schedules, or expanded legal descriptions which may be referred to in the body of the document as "Attachment A" or "Appendix A," etc.