The sources for this article were two papers produced by the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA). PRIA is an association whose members are from recording offices all over the U.S. The following list is a compilation of best practices for notaries public who notarize recordable documents.
• All text on a document to be recorded must be legible . (That means when you write the signer’s name on the certificate, print the name clearly. It must be legible.)
• The signer’s name must be spelled correctly.
• The venue statement must be present, legible, accurate, and complete.
• The notary’s seal must be present, legible, and complete. If your notary seal is smudged or faint, simply make another impression. There is no need to strike the first seal with a line through it.
• The notary’s commission expiration date must be present, legible, accurate, and complete.
• Do not use white-out or black out; if you strike anything from the notarial certificate, do so with one line, write in the correct word(s), and initial the change.
• When a document requires corrections:
- the signer should initial all corrections made in the text of the document, and
- the notary should initial all corrections made in the text of the notarial certificate or should attach a corrected notarial certificate to the document.
• Margins should be clear for one-inch around the edge of the document . You should not stamp your notary seal in the margin of a recordable document. (You should not stamp your seal on the back of a documents two pages to “secure” the document by showing that the certificate matches the document; this is a practice that can create a recording penalty or rejection. The clerk must determine what to do with the notary’s half-seal in that situation.)
• When you produce your own loose certificates for use on documents that have none, follow these principles. Certificates should be printed
…with a clear one-inch margin around the edge of the document.
…on white or nearly white paper of at least 20 lbs. weight .
…using toner or ink that will produce a very dark print; to be on the safe side, print in black.
…using font size of 10 pt. or higher. The font or print size requirement varies from recorder’s office to recorder’s office. The required sizes are between 8 pt. and 10 pt. Don’t take a chance on whether it’s 8 pt. or 10 pt. If you create loose certificates for your own use, create them in a 10 pt. print or higher.
…on paper matching the size of the document to be recorded . According to PRIA, “… a variation of the certificate size would not necessarily cause a document to be rejected unless there is a local requirement governing page size which has been violated. (However, the document to be recorded should be printed on 8 ½” by 11” paper or on 8 ½ by 14” according to PRIA's real estate document formatting standards. Author’s note: one exception to the rules about paper and size is when a Mylar plat must be signed and notarized; the certificate is printed on the plat.)
…on one-sided paper; the notarial certificate must not be printed or stamped on the back of a document page.
• Avoid using colored highlight markers to indicate where signers should sign; some recorders won’t record documents with highlighting on them.
• Signatures (including the notary’s) should be written in blue ink (unless prevented by law). PRIA recommends blue so that it stands out against the black print of the document and certificate. Other than blue, black ink or another dark color may be used. Cherry red, hot pink, fluorescent orange, or lime green, for instance, would not be considered dark. For more information on this topic, see Pens and Ink Color.
• Notarial certificates must not contain blanks; draw a line through blanks that have no relevance to your notarial act.
• The notary should make a clear selection of items like “he/she” or “personal knowledge/government issued ID/credible witness.”
Notary Best Practices for Recordable Documents (PRIA)
Real Estate Document Formatting (PRIA)