Land Records

NOTICE: Please note that Chapter 538 from the 2020 Session of the Maryland General Assembly provides that the current $40 surcharge on recordable instruments recorded among the land records and financing statement records will continue on and after July 1, 2020. For more information, see page 15 through 16 here.

Disclaimer – This page provides some general information about Maryland land records. Property transfers can be complicated. There may also be tax consequences for property transfers. Consider contacting a Maryland lawyer or Maryland title company to help you with a property transfer.

What are Land Records?

Every Maryland County and Baltimore City has a Department of Land Records located in that County’s Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. These departments maintain records about real property in the county that are accessible on a variety of media from “well-bound books” to digitally scanned images.

What can be recorded at Land Records?
The Department of Land Records can record any “instrument” (or legal document) that affects someone’s legal interest in real property. Common documents recorded in land records are deeds, mortgages, liens, powers of attorney, and certain leases.

Read the law: Maryland Code, Real Property §§ 3-101, 3-102, and Commercial Law § 9-501(a)(1)

What is a deed?
A deed is a written document that gives ownership rights to a piece of land. In a deed, one person, called the grantor, gives their ownership rights in land to a second person, called the grantee. Deeds contain important information about the property and the terms of the property transfer.

What can the clerks at the Department of Land Records do?
Clerks at the Department of Land Records are responsible for accepting documents that meet the requirements for inclusion in land records, rejecting documents that do not, and keeping records. Clerks may also collect certain payments at the time documents are submitted. When you come to the Department of Land Records, you must have your documents ready to give to the clerk. The clerks can answer only a few limited questions. The clerks cannot:

  • Help you fill out documents or forms
  • Review your documents prior to being presented for recording
  • Tell you if your documents will accomplish your goals
  • Perform a title search for you
  • Give you legal advice

In many counties, the clerks cannot accept a document into land records until the county’s finance or treasurer’s office endorses the document and collects taxes.

Read the law: Maryland Code, Real Property § 3-104

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How can I get Information from Land Records?

How do I look up a deed?
Deeds are public information. This means anyone can view and get a copy of a deed. Deeds can be viewed for free online through mdlandrec.net. You must create an account with the Maryland State Archives to view deeds on mdlandrec.net. Many courthouses also have computer terminals you can use to search or review deeds. If you have a deed reference number, or need additional assistance finding a deed, a clerk in the Department of Land Records can help find the deed for you. Should you want copies of any document, the cost is $.50 per page.

Where can I find a deed reference number?
Every deed recorded in land records has a reference number that refers to the book and page number where it is stored. (Sometimes deeds use the Latin words “liber” for book and “folio” for page.) Look up reference numbers online through the Maryland Department of Assessments. Select a county and then enter the property address. The reference number appears under the owner information section in the top right corner of the page. The book number is first, followed by a backslash, then the page number.

How do I find a lien?
Finding all liens on a property is difficult. There are different kinds of liens. Only some are recorded in land records. If you are planning on transferring property, consider seeking help from a lawyer or title company to locate liens.

  • Liens against property can be recorded at the Department of Land Records alongside deeds. Search for liens online using Maryland Land Records (mdlandrec.net).
  • Some liens come from court judgments. If this happens, the lien may not be at Land Records. Go to Maryland Case Search to search for court judgments against the property’s owner.
  • Unpaid taxes on the property may result in a lien. Visit your local county or city’s finance office to find property tax or other municipal liens.

Can I check if a home is in foreclosure at Land Records?
Foreclosure cases are not kept at the Department of Land Records. The Civil Clerk at the Circuit Court handles foreclosure cases. You can look up a foreclosure case by searching the owner’s name on Maryland Case Search.

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How do I record a deed?

You can read about the steps to record a new deed at the People’s Law Library. Preparing a deed is complicated. Small mistakes can have major consequences and be difficult to fix. There may also be tax consequences for property transfers. Consider speaking to a lawyer before you prepare any documents

What are the costs associated with recording deeds?
Please note that Chapter 538 from the 2020 Session of the Maryland General Assembly provides that the current $40 surcharge on recordable instruments recorded among the land records and financing statement records will continue on and after July 1, 2020. For more information, see page 15 through 16 here.

Deeds and other documents have fees, surcharges, and taxes you must pay to record them in land records. Some fees are paid directly to the Land Records Department. Others must be paid to your local county or city finance office or other local government offices. Fees charged by the Land Records Department are listed in the Circuit Court fee schedule. Clerks at the Land Records Department can answer some questions about the fees you need to pay and where you must go to pay them. Below is a list of costs associated with recording and transferring deeds. Seek professional help from a Maryland lawyer or title company to determine the exact costs of any specific transaction.

  • Recording fees and surcharges
  • Recordation tax
  • State transfer tax
  • County transfer tax
  • Non-Resident tax

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Frequently asked questions

How do I take someone’s name off a deed? How do I add someone’s name to a deed?
To take someone’s name off a deed, a new deed must be prepared to transfer the property from all of the current owners to all of the remaining owners. Similarly, to add someone to a deed a new deed must be prepared to transfer the property from all current owners to all new and current owners. The new deed must then be recorded in land records.

You can read about the steps to record a new deed at the People’s Law Library. Preparing a deed is complicated. Small mistakes can have major consequences and be difficult to fix. Consider speaking to a Maryland lawyer before you prepare any documents.

What if a person listed on a deed has died?
When someone dies, changing legal ownership of their property usually does not happen at the Department of Land Records. Instead, there is a legal process to distribute their property called estate administration. An estate can be opened at the Register of Wills in the county where the deceased person lived at their time of death. More information on the estate administration process can be found at the People’s Law Library.

What is a deed in lieu of foreclosure?
If a property owner falls behind on the mortgage, the lender that holds the mortgage can foreclose on the property. Foreclosure means the lender can go to court and ask to sell the property by auction. A deed in lieu can be done instead of auctioning the property. This means that the property owner will transfer ownership of the home directly to the lender. The lender must agree to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

If you are facing foreclosure and need assistance, call the Maryland HOPE Hotline at 1-877-462-7555. Housing counselors can help you explore your options.

What is a quitclaim deed?
In regular deeds, the grantor warrants generally that there are no problems with the title. If it turns out that there is a problem with the property’s title or other ownership rights, the grantor can be held responsible.

In a quitclaim deed, the grantor makes no promises that they have a good title to the property. The grantor does not even promise that they own the property. Instead, the grantor only transfers whatever interest, if any, they have in the property. By accepting a quitclaim deed, the grantee takes responsibility for any problems with the ownership rights to the property.

What is a life estate?
A property owner with a life estate has ownership rights of their property until they die. When the homeowner dies, a person named in the deed automatically becomes the owner of the property. Life estates have some important advantages and disadvantages over regular property ownership. Consult with a lawyer before you set up your life estate.

What is a contract of sale?
A contract of sale is a written agreement to transfer ownership of property. The contract does not cause the legal ownership of the property to change. The deed is the document which has the legal effect of transferring the property. The contract will state terms of the transfer including who will write a new deed and when the deed should be signed. A contract of sale is subject to taxes. If the contract falls through the tax is not refundable.

Can I file deeds online?
In some counties, deeds and other documents for the Department of Land Records may be filed online at Simplifile. A current list of Land Records Departments and County Finance Offices that permit electronic filing of deeds can be found here. Read about the requirements for electronic filing here. You can use an electronic signature if you complete and submit an Affidavit of Intent to Use Electronic Signature.

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