Pennsylvania Deed Requirements
A deed that transfers Pennsylvania real estate must conform to the commonwealth’s rules and conventions for deeds. This article describes the appropriate format and content for Pennsylvania deeds, how they must be signed, and the necessary steps for recording.
Formatting Requirements for Pennsylvania Deeds
Pennsylvania does not set deed-formatting standards at the state level, so formatting rules are generally at the discretion of county recording offices. Most counties use the document standards adopted by the Pennsylvania Recorders of Deeds Association—which are described in this section. Some counties have additional county-specific rules.
It’s a good idea to review a county’s formatting rules before recording a deed. The Pennsylvania Recorders of Deeds Association publishes a list of county recorders of deeds with links to most counties’ websites.
Pennsylvania Deeds should be printed on paper no larger than 8½ × 14 inches (legal size). Recorders prefer (and some require) 8½ × 11-inch (letter-size) paper. Paper should be white, 20-pound weight, and opaque.
A Pennsylvania deed’s text must be sufficiently clear and legible to allow production of readable copies and scanned images. Deeds should use a 10-point or larger font size. Text should appear on only one side of the page and be printed or typed in black ink. Signatures should use black ink or blue ink that is dark enough to allow for clear copying.
The top margin on a deed’s first page must be three inches. All other margins should be one inch.
The left side of the top margin ordinarily contains the “return to” and “prepared by” statements and the property’s parcel identifier number. The top margin’s right side is reserved for the recorder’s stamp.
Pennsylvania deeds typically include a document title centered below the first page’s 3-inch top margin. The title usually identifies the type of deed, though some Pennsylvania deeds are titled simply Deed.
Information Requirements for Pennsylvania Deeds
Pennsylvania law requires all recorded documents to include certain information, and other requirements apply specifically to deeds that transfer title to real estate. A deed must include each of the items listed below to make a valid title transfer and to be eligible for recording.
Current Owner and New Owner Names and Addresses
A deed must identify by name the current owner who transfers real estate (the grantor) and the new owner who takes title through the deed (the grantee).1 Names must be written consistently throughout the deed and accompanying documents. The current owner’s name must exactly match the name in the prior deed that transferred the property to the current owner. A deed can use a/k/a (also known as), f/k/a (formerly known as), or n/k/a (now known as) to indicate a name change if the current owner now goes by a different name.
The new owner’s residential address and mailing address must be set forth in a deed.2 Deeds customarily state the current owner’s address, also, but it is not strictly required in most cases.
Attorney Practice Note: Co-Ownership: A deed that names two or more new co-owners should identify the form of co-ownership they will use. Pennsylvania law recognizes three co-ownership forms—tenancy in common, joint tenancy, and tenancy by the entirety (for married couples only). A right of survivorship is not inherent in a Pennsylvania joint tenancy, as in some states, but can be created through clear language in a deed.3
A Pennsylvania deed only passes title to the new owner if the deed contains a granting clause—language that declares the current owner’s intent to transfer title to the new owner. The wording of a deed’s granting clause affects the warranty of title the deed provides, if any.4 A Pennsylvania deed under which the current owner quitclaims and releases the property, for example, is a quitclaim deed.5 A deed that uses grants and conveys is a warranty deed unless the deed specifically limits the warranty.6
A deed’s consideration is the value the new owner provides in exchange for the real estate transfer. Pennsylvania deeds must list the actual consideration either on the face of the deed or within a statement of value (a form described below) submitted with the deed.7 A deed can state nominal consideration or use alternate consideration language—such as for good and valuable consideration—if a statement of value is attached to the deed.
Attorney Practice Note: Pennsylvania law creates an exception to the normal consideration requirement if the deed identifies a family relationship between the parties that makes the deed exempt from transfer tax.8
Pennsylvania deeds must contain a current legal description that unambiguously identifies the transferred property. A deed can identify the real estate with:
- A traditional metes-and-bounds description;
- A reference by book and page number to a prior deed with a valid description of the same property (as long as the boundaries are unchanged); or
- A reference to the property’s lot number assigned in a recorded subdivision plan that has a metes-and-bounds description.9
Attorney Practice Note: Legal Descriptions: Many counties ask that deeds identify the property’s municipality, county, and state (i.e., Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) within the legal description or directly preceding it.10 Deeds that transfer Philadelphia real estate should list the property’s street address, and deeds in Pittsburgh should include the ward number.
Uniform Parcel Identifier
Most Pennsylvania counties have adopted a uniform parcel identifier system for identifying properties for property tax purposes. Counties that have adopted the system have recorded tax maps that assign to each parcel a uniform parcel identifier—sometimes called a tax parcel number or similar term.11
A deed that transfers property that has a uniform parcel identifier must include the number for the deed to be effective against third parties.12 Recording offices request parcel identifiers appear at the top of the first page.
A derivation clause is a phrase that identifies the source of the current owner’s title to the property—typically the prior deed under which the current owner took title. Derivation clauses are usually positioned at the end of the property description or separately just below the property description. Pennsylvania deeds customarily include a derivation clause, but they are not mandatory under Pennsylvania law.
Deed Preparer and Return Address
Many Pennsylvania counties require a “prepared by” statement and a “return to” statement on the face of a deed. The “prepared by” statement identifies by name and address the person who prepared the deed. Some counties ask for the preparer’s telephone number, also. The “return to” statement identifies the mailing address where the recording officer should return the recorded deed.
Both items are typically written on the left side of the 3-inch top margin of the deed’s first page.
Surface Support Rights in Counties with Coal
A deed that transfers surface rights in land located in a county where bituminous coal has been found and is assessed separately for taxation must include one of the following:13
- The current owner’s certification regarding whether buildings on the property are entitled to support from underground coal; or
- A statement signed by the new owner (the grantee) stating that the new owner knows that he or she may not be obtaining the right of protection against subsidence caused by coal mining and that the property may be protected from mine-subsidence damage by a private contract with the owners of the economic interests in the coal.
If a deed has the grantee’s signed statement, it must be printed in a contrasting color in at least 12-point type. The word Notice must immediately precede the grantee’s statement in at least 24-point type.
Notice of Severance of Coal Rights
Pennsylvania has a mandatory notice that a deed that conveys the surface of land must include if there has been a severance of the surface rights from the right to underground coal or the right of surface support related to the coal.14 The statutory coal notice is not required if the deed is a quitclaim deed.15 The notice must be written in all caps or other distinctive text in the format set forth in Section 1551(a).
Signing Requirements for Pennsylvania Deeds
The current owner who is transferring property must sign a Pennsylvania deed.16 The signature line is typically at the end of the deed, and the current owner’s name is typed or printed directly below the signature.
An entity that transfers Pennsylvania real estate must sign a deed through a representative with legal authority to act on the entity’s behalf. A trustee signs for a trust, for example.17
A corporation’s president or vice president typically signs for the corporation—with the secretary or treasurer acting as witness. If a different representative signs, a corporate resolution giving the signer authority should be recorded with the deed. A corporate seal is unnecessary if the deed is signed and notarized as required.18
Power of Attorney
An agent can sign a Pennsylvania deed for the property owner if the owner has created a power-of-attorney (POA) instrument that empowers the agent to transfer real estate for the owner.19 A deed signed by an agent under a valid POA is as effective as a deed with the owner’s individual signature.20
A Pennsylvania deed cannot be recorded unless the transferring owner acknowledges the deed before a notary or other officer with authority to take acknowledgments.21 Pennsylvania’s real estate laws include a model notary certificate for deeds.22
A notary certificate should include:
- The state and county;
- The name of the person who signed the deed;
- An acknowledgment date not earlier than the deed’s effective date;
- The notary’s name and signature;
- The notary’s stamp or seal, and
- The notary’s commission expiration date.
A witness’s signature is not technically required for a valid Pennsylvania deed, as long as the deed is properly notarized. Pennsylvania deeds sometimes include the signature of a third-party witness by custom.
Certificate of Grantee’s Residence
The new owner or an authorized representative must sign a Pennsylvania deed to certify the new owner’s residence and post office address.23 The certification can be included on the face of the deed or within a separate certificate that is attached and recorded with the deed.
Recording Pennsylvania Deeds
In Pennsylvania, county recorders of deeds are responsible for maintaining the county’s real estate records.24 A deed must be filed with the recorder of deeds for the county where the property is located.25 Pennsylvania law requires deeds to be recorded within 90 days after the deed is signed if it is signed in Pennsylvania or within six months if it is signed outside Pennsylvania.26
The office of the recorder of deeds may be combined with other offices depending on the county’s population.27 Real estate records in Philadelphia County are maintained by the Philadelphia County Department of Records.
Pennsylvania recording fees vary by county. The minimum filing fee under state law is $10.00 for deeds up to four pages, plus $2.00 for each extra page and an extra $1.00 for each grantor or grantee over four.28 Filing fees actually charged by counties are typically between $70.00 and $90.00 per deed.
Registration of Deeds
Pennsylvania has a registration requirement for deeds that transfer real estate in counties with over 500,000 residents.29 In applicable counties, deeds must be registered with the office of the county commissions before the deed is submitted to the recorder of deeds. The county board of assessments or similar office typically handles deed registration in advance of filing.
The counties with over 500,000 residents are:
- Philadelphia County;
- Allegheny County;
- Montgomery County;
- Bucks County;
- Delaware County;
- Lancaster County; and
- Chester County.
Municipal Deed Registration
Pennsylvania law authorizes municipalities to enact ordinances requiring deeds to be registered with the municipality.30 If a municipality has such an ordinance, a transferee who receives property within the municipal limits must register the deed within two days after the deed is recorded.
Deeds are registered via certified or registered mail or by submitting an electronic copy if permitted by the municipality.31 In place of registration, a municipality and the county recorder of deeds may enter into an agreement for the recorder of deeds to provide deed information directly to the municipality.32
A municipality under the deed-registration statute is a city (other than Philadelphia), borough, incorporated town, township of the first class, township of the second class, or home rule municipality formerly classified as a city, borough, incorporated town or township.33 The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has a website that lists the classification of municipalities throughout Pennsylvania.
Municipalities can charge a registration fee of up to $10.00.34
Pennsylvania Transfer Tax
Pennsylvania charges state and local transfer taxes on deeds that transfer title to real estate.35 The tax must be paid to the recorder of deeds when the deed is presented for recording or within 30 days after the new owner accepts the deed—whichever comes first.36
Pennsylvania Transfer Tax Rates
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s transfer tax rate is one percent of the property’s value.37 Value is the consideration paid or to be paid for the real estate. If the property was not sold in a bona fide sale, value is determined according to a formula that uses the property’s assessed value and the county’s common level ratio factor, as assigned by the State Tax Equalization Board.38
Local transfer tax rates vary by county. The most common local rate is 1.00%. Philadelphia charges 3.278 percent, and Pittsburgh’s local rate is 4.00 percent.
Transfer Tax Exemptions
Pennsylvania’s transfer tax law includes a list of 25 categories of transactions that are exempt from transfer tax.39 Common types of exempt deeds include:
- Deeds that correct or confirm a previously recorded deed for no additional consideration;
- Deeds that transfer property from the personal representative of a deceased owner’s estate to the deceased owner’s heir or devisee for no consideration;
- Deeds between close family members—such as spouses or parent and child;
- Deeds between former spouses in a divorce;
- Deeds to a trustee for no consideration if a transfer directly to the beneficiaries would be exempt;
- Deeds from a living trust’s settlor to its trustee for no consideration;
- Deeds from a living trust’s trustee after the settlor’s death for no consideration; and
- Deeds from a business entity to a long-term (at least two years) owner of the entity if the real estate and entity interests are in the same proportion.
Additional Forms Required with Pennsylvania Deeds
Pennsylvania law requires just one additional form with deeds filed for recording. Some counties may also require their own forms. For example, deeds in Philadelphia require a Philadelphia Real Estate Transfer Tax Certification.
Other documents—such as POA instruments, certificates of trust, and corporate resolutions—may be necessary depending on the type of deed.
Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value (Form REV-183).
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue publishes a Realty Transfer Tax Statement of Value that must be completed and filed with most deeds.40 The one-page form provides information about the parties and transfer. It certifies either the consideration paid for the property or the reason for exemption. If a deed is exempt, the statement of value must still state the property’s true value.41
A Form REV-183 is not required if the deed states the complete consideration and is not exempt from transfer tax.42 A statement of value is also unnecessary if (a) the deed is exempt based on the parties’ familial relationship, and (b) the deed clearly indicates the parties’ relationship.43 Some county recording offices may request a completed Form REV-183 even if the form is not technically required under state law.
Each deed created by our deed preparation service is attorney-designed to meet Pennsylvania recording requirements and comes with step-by-step instructions for filing with the Recorder of Deeds.
- See, e.g., 21 Penn. Stat. § 1; 16 Penn. Stat. § 9851.
- 16 Penn. Stat. § 9781.
- See 68 Penn. Stat. § 110.
- 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 4; 7; 8.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 7.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 4.
- 72 Penn. Stat. § 8109-C(a).
- 61 Pa. Admin. Code § 91.112(d)(1).
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 10.1(a).
- See 16 Penn. Stat. § 9851.
- 16 Penn. Stat. § 9781.1; 21 Penn. Stat. § 10.1(a).
- See 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 332; 358(1).
- 52 Penn. Stat. § 1406.14.
- 52 Penn. Stat. § 1551.
- 52 Penn. Stat. § 1551(a).
- See 21 Penn. Stat. § 42; 33 Penn. Stat. § 1.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 262.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 10.
- 20 Pa. C.S. § 5603(i).
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 302.
- 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 42; 444.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 81.
- 16 Penn. Stat. § 9781.
- 16 Penn. Stat. § 9731.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 444.
- 21 Penn. Stat. §§ 444; 445.
- 16 Penn. Stat. § 1302.
- 16 Penn. Stat. § 11411.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 321.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 338.4.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 338.4(a).
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 338.5(a).
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 338.2.
- 21 Penn. Stat. § 338.6.
- 72 Penn. Stat. §§ 8101-C, et. seq.
- 72 Penn. Stat. § 8102-C.
- 72 Penn. Stat. § 8102-C.
- 61 Pa. Admin. Code § 91.101
- 72 Penn. Stat. §§ 8102-C.3(1)-(25).
- 72 Penn. Stat. § 8109-C(a).
- 72 Penn. Stat. § 8102-C.3.
- 61 Pa. Admin. Code § 91.112(b).
- 61 Pa. Admin. Code § 91.112(d)(1).