This chapter is designed to provide an overview of the Register of Deeds function and to serve as a reference of the activities and records that may be found in the office. It is not intended to be a detailed procedures manual for active RoD's.
The Register of Deeds exists as a separate governmental office in 21 counties in South Carolina. In Anderson, Beaufort, Clarendon, Colleton, Georgetown, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lancaster, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg, and Sumter, the position is appointed by the governing body. In the counties of Aiken, Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Greenville, and Lexington, the holder of the office is elected. In the remaining 25 counties, the functions are performed by the elected Clerk of Court. Please note that Chesterfield County has the statutory authority (Section 30-5-10, SC Code) to appoint a register of deeds; however, at this time, the clerk of court serves in this capacity.
On January 1, 1998, the name of the office changed from Register of Mesne Conveyances (RMC) to Register of Deeds (RoD). Current office holders, whether appointed or elected, were authorized to keep the name of RMC during their tenure in office, however, after their term, the name is to change to RoD.
The duties of the RoD are set out by the Code of Laws of South Carolina. The proper recording of documents provides notice to subsequent purchasers or creditors of the interests of others in the property and establishes priority of claims against that property. Generally, all instruments conveying an interest in real property must be recorded in that county's RoD in order to be valid. Other documents of public interest may also be recorded by the RoD.
The primary duty of the Register of Deeds is to record writings concerning title to or interests in real or personal property. Failure to do so, or to adequately secure the records in his or her charge as a public officer, can subject the Register of Deeds to criminal sanctions. (§ 8-1-50 and -60)
The following recording duties are prescribed by law:
The Register of Deeds is also responsible for:
The Register of Deeds is required to maintain certain records in the office. For each type of record, one or more indexes must also be maintained to facilitate locating instruments in the books of deeds, mortgages, etc. Specific statutory requirements for records include the following:
Miscellaneous Liens/Unpaid Assessments
The procedures used to record documents in the office of the Register of Deeds are designed to provide adequate and immediate notice of interests in real or personal property to subsequent purchasers or creditors. The specific requirements are contained in the statutes, but in general consist of the following steps:
Once the original instrument has been recorded, subsequent recordings such as satisfactions, assignments, cancellations and releases must be noted in the proper indexes and books. It may also be noted on the originally recorded instrument so that notice of the current status of title to interest in that property is evident. Willful violation of this requirement may result in fine or imprisonment sanctions.
The S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDoR) states in its "Reference Manual" the following: "A recording fee will be imposed (usually on the Grantor) by the Clerk of Court or RoD for the privilege of recording a deed...whereby any lands, tenements or other realty is transferred to another person. The fee is one dollar and eighty-five cents for each five hundred dollars, or fractional part thereof, of the realty's value."
Thus, the RoD is charged with collection of all recording taxes and fees for both the State and the county. Evidence of this collection, either by stamp, meter, or recording label, must be affixed to the instrument. Monies collected for the State are to be transmitted to the State Department of Revenue by the 20th day of each month. Monies collected for the county are to be deposited with the county treasurer or in an account maintained by the RoD.
The South Carolina Department of Revenue allows specific exemptions from these fees as listed in the manual. Copies of this manual may be requested from the Department of Revenue by calling 803-898-5000 or by writing to:
S.C. Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 125
Columbia, SC 29214
Deed Recording Fee stamps, or a recording label showing that the fee was paid, must be affixed before the instrument is recorded and before the instruments are photocopied, microfilmed, or scanned in those offices where these processes are used.
Three percent of the fee collected is allowed as compensation to the collection office if such fees are remitted in a timely manner. Records of the collection of the deed recording fee must be maintained in the office for a period of six years.
Recording instruments without the required stamps, and misuse of stamps is a misdemeanor carrying fine or imprisonment sanctions.
S.C. Code Ann. §58-37-50(G) authorizes electricity providers and natural gas providers to implement financing agreements for the installation of energy efficiency and conservation improvements. Notice must be given, at the expense of the filer, by filing a Notice of Meter Conservation Charge with the register of deeds or register of deeds section of the clerk of court's office in the county in which the residence is located. I have included a copy of a Notice of Meter Conservation Charge form for your reference.
This type of notice should not be filed as a lien. S.C. Code Ann. §58-37-50(G) provides that the notice of meter conservation charge does not constitute a lien on the property but is intended to give a purchaser of the residence notice that the residence is subject to a meter conservation charge. The Notice of Meter Conservation Charge should be filed in the Grantor/Grantee index and the filing fee is $10.00 pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 8-21-310(23).
Upon the satisfaction of the financing agreement, a Cancellation of Meter Conservation Charge may be filed and the filing fee would be $10.00 pursuant to SC Code Ann. §8-21-310.