District of Columbia Deed Requirements

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This article describes the information Washington, DC, deeds must contain, the district’s signing standards, and customs for formatting. It also explains the recording fees and taxes required when filing deeds and the forms that must accompany a DC deed.

Formatting Standards for Washington, DC, Deeds

Washington, DC, has no specific deed formatting standards set by statute. Deed formatting generally follows the local customs described below.

  • Paper size. Washington, DC, deeds should be printed on paper measuring 8½ × 11 inches (standard letter) or 8½ × 14 inches (legal size).
  • Ink color. DC law does not require a specific ink color for deeds. Deeds are nearly always printed in black ink and signed in black or blue ink.
  • Font size. DC law sets no minimum font size. Deeds typically use a 12-point font, and smaller print should be no less than a 10-point font. A deed’s lettering needs to be large enough to be legible when reproduced in a photographic image.
  • Margins. There is no legal standard for DC deeds’ margins. Most deeds’ margins are no smaller than 1 inch, and a 2- or 3-inch top margin for a deed’s first page is common.
  • Recorder’s stamp. A deed should leave adequate space for the stamp added by the recorder upon filing. The DC recorder stamps a deed’s last page—typically at the bottom.

Content Requirements for Washington, DC, Deeds

District of Columbia content requirements govern the substantive provisions that must be included in each District of Columbia deed form. District of Columbia deeds must meet the following content requirements:

  • Party names. A Washington, DC, deed must identify by name the current owner (the grantor) transferring the property and the new owner (the grantee) receiving it.1
  • Party addresses. A deed should include the new owner’s address. DC law does not strictly require the current owner’s address, but it is often included.2
  • Property description. A deed must include a legal description sufficient to identify the property.3 The property description must include the transferred property’s lot number, square number, and assessment and taxation (A&T) number, if assigned by the Office of the Surveyor.4 It should also include the subdivision and reference information recorded with the Office of the Surveyor, if applicable.
  • Vesting clause. A deed must have language showing that the current owner is transferring the real estate to the new owner. A deed’s vesting language often indicates the type of deed being used and the warranty of title the current owner is offering (if any).5 DC law interprets a deed with the word grant or the words bargain and sell in its vesting clause as passing the current owner’s entire interest unless the deed expressly limits the transferred interest or reserves an interest to the current owner.6
  • Form of co-ownership. A deed that transfers DC real estate to more than one new co-owner should identify the co-ownership form the new owners will use to hold the property. Washington, DC, law recognizes tenancy in common, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, and tenancy by the entirety.7
  • Consideration. Washington, DC, law does not strictly require deeds to include a statement of consideration—or the value provided in exchange for the transfer. A statement of consideration is nearly always included by custom.8 A deed may state nominal consideration or—when appropriate—state that the new owner gave no consideration.
  • Preparer’s name. Washington, DC, deeds customarily include a “prepared by” statement identifying the person who prepared the deed.
  • Return address. A deed must provide a “return to” address where the recorder of deeds will return the deed after recording.

Signing Requirements for Washington, DC, Deeds

A District of Columbia deed is not valid unless it is signed as required by law. District of Columbia deeds must meet the following signature requirements:

  • Current owner’s signature. A DC deed must be signed by the current owner who is transferring the property. The current owner can sign personally or by power of attorney (POA).9 A signer’s name must be printed beneath the signature. A deed transferring co-owned real estate must be signed by both owners unless only one owner is transferring his or her interest.
  • Power of attorney. An agent signing a deed under POA must sign and acknowledge the deed as attorney in fact.10 A deed signed under POA must either be recorded with the POA form or reference the recording date and instrument number of a previously recorded POA form.11 A recorded POA form empowering an agent to sign a DC deed must include the following statement in bold, capital letters:


  • Notarization. A deed cannot be recorded in Washington, DC, unless acknowledged before a notary or other authorized officer.12 The notary certificate must include the notary’s name, signature, commission expiration date, and seal.

Recording Fees for Washington, DC, Deeds

Deeds transferring real estate located in Washington, DC, are recorded with the district’s recorder of deeds—part of the DC Office of Tax and Revenue. The new owner (the deed’s grantee) must record a DC deed within 30 days after the deed is signed and notarized.13 To be recorded, each deed sent to the recorder of deeds should include the following:

  • Recording fees. The recorder of deeds’ filing fee to record a DC deed is $31.50—which includes a $25.00 base fee, plus a $6.50 surcharge.14 The district mayor has legal authority to periodically adjust recording fees based on the recorder of deeds’ operating costs.15
  • Penalty fee for delayed recording. DC law charges a penalty fee for recording a deed more than 30 days after the deed was signed and notarized. The penalty is $25.00 per month for each month filing is delayed—up to $250.00.16

Washington, DC, Transfer Tax and Recordation Tax

Washington, DC, charges two related taxes—transfer tax and recordation tax—to record a deed transferring title to real estate in the district.17 A person requesting recording must pay the combined tax amount to the recorder of deeds at the time of recording.

  • Transfer tax calculation. DC’s transfer tax and recordation tax are both based on the consideration for the transfer.18 “Consideration” under the statute is the price or amount actually paid or required to be paid, including any secured loans or other financing.19 The taxes are based on the property’s fair market value if the transfer involves nominal or no consideration.20
  • Transfer tax rates. The tax rates for DC’s transfer tax and recordation tax mirror each other. Both taxes use the rates below so that the combined tax paid is double in most cases:
    • The base tax rate is 1.1 percent of the consideration paid for the transfer.21
    • The rate is increased to 1.45 percent if the transferred property is not a home or the consideration is $400,000 or more.22
    • The rate is increased to 2.5 percent if the consideration is $2 million or more and the property is Class 2 Property.23
  • Transfer tax and recordation tax exemptions. Washington, DC, law exempts certain deeds and transfers from transfer tax and recordation.24 The exemptions for the two taxes are mostly the same—so that a deed exempt from one tax is also exempt from the other. Examples of deeds exempt from both taxes include:
    • Deeds between spouses or domestic partners, parent and child, or grandparent and grandchild without consideration;
    • Deeds to a qualifying lower income homeownership household;
    • Deeds to revocable trusts for no consideration if the transferor is the current beneficiary of the trust;
    • Deeds transferring property owned by a revocable trust to the trust’s beneficiary due to the death of the trust’s grantor;
    • Deeds transferring property from a revocable trust’s trustee if the transfer would be exempt if made directly by the trust’s grantor;
    • Deeds transferring property to a business entity that is converting to a new type of entity;
    • Deeds from an estate’s personal representative to distribute without further consideration;
    • Deeds under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance or under a written agreement related to the divorce or separation; and
    • Deeds to a transfer-on-death deed’s beneficiary due to the owner’s death.
  • Claiming an exemption. To claim an exemption, the person who requests recording must present evidence to the recorder of deeds showing that the deed is exempt. The recorder of deeds’ Form ROD 4 lists the documentation needed for many exemptions.

Additional Forms Required When Recording Washington, DC, Deeds

The following supplemental forms are required when filing Washington, DC, deeds:

  • Transfer tax return (Form FP-7/C). The current and new owners must complete and sign a Real Property Recordation and Tax Form FP-7/C. Form FP-7/C includes details about the transaction, such as the consideration for the transfer.25 The return must be filed for recording with the deed and becomes a part of the deed.26
  • Document intake sheet (Form ROD 31). Form ROD 31 is a cover sheet that must be submitted to the recorder of deeds when requesting recording. The form states the type of document filed and any payment included with the deed.

Each deed created by our deed preparation service is attorney-designed to meet District of Columbia recording requirements and comes with step-by-step instructions for filing with the recorder of deeds.

  1. See D.C. Code § 42-601.
  2. See D.C. Code § 42-601.
  3. See D.C. Code § 42-601.
  4. D.C. Code § 47-1431(a).
  5. See D.C. Code §§ 42-604; 42-605.
  6. D.C. Code § 42-702.
  7. D.C. Code § 42-516.
  8. See D.C. Code § 42-601.
  9. D.C. Code § 42-306(b).
  10. D.C. Code § 42-101(b).
  11. D.C. Code § 42-101(a).
  12. D.C. Code § 42-407(1).
  13. D.C. Code § 47-1431.
  14. D.C. Code §§ 42-1210; 42-1211.
  15. D.C. Code § 42-1218.
  16. D.C. Code § 47-1433(a).
  17. D.C. Code §§ 47-903(a)(1); 42-1103.
  18. D.C. Code §§ 47-903(a)(1); 42-1103(a)(1).
  19. D.C. Code §§ 47-901(5); 42-1101(5).
  20. D.C. Code §§ 47-903(a)(1)(B); 42-1103(a)(1)(B)(iii).
  21. D.C. Code §§ 47-903(a)(1); 42-1103(a)(1).
  22. D.C. Code §§ 47-903(a-4); 42-1103(a-4).
  23. D.C. Code §§ 47-903(a-4); 42-1103(a-5); 47-813 (defining Class 2 Property).
  24. D.C. Code §§ 47-902(1)-(28); 42-1102(1)-(36).
  25. D.C. Code § 47-903(b)(1).
  26. D.C. Code § 47-903(b)(2).