Last updated: July 14. 2014 10:58PM - 1196 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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The filing of deeds, civil court actions and a myriad of other paperwork in Luzerne County offices will cost $12 more next month because of a state fee hike.

County officials throughout the state scrambled to address the unexpected increase Friday because it was approved in the state budget signed Thursday by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Most of the increase — $10 — was set to take effect immediately, with the remaining $2 to be added starting Aug. 8. After a statewide uproar about the need to notify attorneys and others impacted by the fee, the state allowed counties to delay implementation of the entire increase until Aug. 8, according to two county officials.

“It spread confusion throughout the entire state,” said county civil/criminal court records director Jim Haddock, who was at a state conference when the sudden change was announced.

Haddock and Mary Dysleski, who oversees county wills and deeds, said they must inform the public about the increase and make adjustments in software programs so filers are charged the appropriate amounts.

Funding from the increase will go to computerization and other programs in the state’s Unified Judicial System — not the county’s general fund operating budget, Haddock and Dysleski stressed.

The increase will apply to several property-related documents that must be recorded with the county, including deeds, mortgages, mortgage releases, mortgage satisfactions and leases, Dysleski said. Initial filings for opening estates in the wills office and petitioning for adoption or appointment of guardians for the incapacitated also are subject to the hike, she said.

While overall fees vary for these filings, the state portion will increase from $23.50 to $35.50 on Aug. 8, she said.

For example, the total fee to record a deed or mortgage is $55 and will increase to $67 on Aug. 8 due to the state hike, she said.

Dysleski said she received notice of the change Thursday night and wasn’t informed of the option to delay implementation until 3 p.m. Friday. She allowed office visitors to file documents at the old rates Friday morning but told them they may be required to return with an additional payment if the extension wasn’t granted. Several customers were angry about the lack of notice Friday because they already had completed property closings in which fees were deducted, she said.

“We receive a lot of mailings from bank and mortgage companies out of state, and they will be impacted also. We have to send notification to them,” Dysleski said.

Haddock said the increase will apply to initial filings of civil court actions, which will increase the overall fee from $140 to $152 on Aug. 8. He was still assessing which filings are subject to the increase in the criminal court records office, where payment will become the responsibility of defendants.

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