- Departments A-G
- Recorded Documents
- Elimination of Torrens/Registered Land
In March 2022, the Washington Legislature eliminated the Torrens System 1376.SL.pdf (wa.gov), also known as the Registered Land Title Act. We have sent individual notices to all taxpayers with property still registered in Torrens.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Effective July 1, 2023, properties will no longer be subject to Torrens registration. This doesn’t affect the validity and priority of lien interest or ownership.
HOW WOULD I KNOW IF MY PROPERTY IS AFFECTED?
The title company would have notified you of the registration when you purchased your property. If the sale did not include a title company, the seller would have surrendered the certificate of title and the county would issue a certificate of title to you. In Pierce County, there are just over 200 parcels subject to the Torrens registry.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
Nothing! After July 1, 2023, any property remaining in the Torrens System will be automatically withdrawn and a certificate of withdrawal recorded for free.
WHAT IF I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF?
If your property is in the Torrens registry and you'd like to manually withdraw, you will surrender a Certified or Duplicate Copy of the Certificate of Title to the Auditor's Office. If the Certified or Duplicate of the Certificate of Title has been lost, mislaid, or destroyed then you may submit an affidavit (link below) explaining, to the best of your knowledge, the circumstances of the loss. The affidavit must also include a description of the real property, the name and address of each registered owner, and each such owner's interest in the real property. The affidavit can be mailed in or dropped off in-person to our office.
The Torrens System is an ownership record for a specific parcel of land, similar to a title report or Auditor's recording office. Under the Torrens System, interests in a parcel of land are documented in a "Certificate of Title" and retained by the County Auditor in a specific Torrens index. It's defined under RCW 65.12 and is based on an antiquated method for registering the ownership.
Torrens is a complex, labor intensive system of land registration that must be kept separate from modern, standardized recording systems. Maintaining a separate land title registry system is inefficient and often inaccurate.
Although 21 states originally authorized Torrens, less than 10 states currently have land registered in them. Colorado abolished Torrens in 2020 and New York no longer allows new registrations. In Washington State, only King, Pierce, Snohomish, Island, and Kitsap counties have these registered lands.
Land transactions under Torrens consume court time and resources for actions which are essentially administrative in modern practice. It's common practice for property owners to withdraw the property from the Torrens System prior to selling so the new owner can purchase title insurance and avoid court proceedings.
I DID NOT REGISTER MY PARCEL IN TORRENS, WHO DID?
In some cases, a prior owner may have registered a parcel in the Torrens System. Unless a parcel is withdrawn by filing a certificate of withdrawal, the parcel is presumed to remain in the Torrens System, even if a subsequent owner is unaware of the Torrens registration and records their purchase with the Auditor's Recording Office.