Sometimes, government offices and their functions are a mystery to the average citizen.
By Lisa Nowatzki
Vicki Kubat works at the Cavalier County courthouse and has a job that may be unfamiliar to the average citizen. She is the county recorder and has been since 1991.
Kubat has worked for the people of Cavalier County for 27 years as a public servant and elected official.
Though Kubat’s job is a part of the Cavalier County government offices, she is bound by the Century Code which contains the laws of North Dakota and also defines the duties of many North Dakota government officials, including the function of the County Recorder.
Kubat’s job begins when someone needs an instrument recorded. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, an instrument is a formal or legal document in writing, such as a contract, deed, will, bond or lease.
Even though the job of county recorder was founded on the basis of the real estate record, Kubat’s office handles much more than just real estate. As defined by the Century Code, Kubat has to keep a record of each patent, deed, mortgage, bill of sale, security agreement, judgment, decree, lien, certificate of sale and other instruments required to be filed or recorded in proper books provided for such recording, upon receipt of the filing or recording fees.
Along with those duties, the County Recorder’s office must maintain a reception book, grantor/grantee indexes, and land tract index.
For most real estate transactions, Kubat needs one document: a deed, which usually comes in three forms.
A warranty deed guarantees a clear title to the buyer of real property and ensures that three claims or guarantees are met. First, the seller assures the buyer that the property has not been sold to anyone else. Second, the seller states that the property is not involved in any other legal entanglement. Third, the seller assures the buyer that the title is free of any defects that may affect the title, even if the defect was caused by a prior owner.
The next type of deed is a quitclaim deed. This document contains no warranties of title. Quitclaim deeds only operate to convey the seller’s interest in the property to the buyer.
The other type of deed that Kubat deals with is a contract for deed. This deed allows the seller to retain legal title to the property until the balance is paid off. This type of deed normally accompanies bank loans or mortgages.
The recorder’s office also needs a consideration statement for each type of deed. This statement is contained within the deed and states the amount paid for the property.
“The buyer has two choices to either declare the full amount or declare that the property is exemp,” Kubat explained.
Once the documents meet the county recorder’s requirement, the deed is taken to the county auditor’s office to make sure the taxes are paid.
Kubat said “If the taxes are not paid, then the document cannot be recorded.” If the taxes are paid, then the document gets recorded for tax purposes, and the ownership is changed on the tax rolls.
Kubat stresses that her job does not determine if the document or deed is a valid document. “That’s an attorney’s job.” If the information on a deed is challenged, then the court system determines the validity of the deed. The process works because the county offices all try to work together to eliminate errors.
Kubat and her deputy, Courtney Clouse, record all documents for Cavalier County, and they maintain the records that go back as far as 1884 since the county was incorporated.
The State of North Dakota wants to go digital. Recently, all the county records maintained by Kubat were digitized by US Imaging.
The oil boom in the western part of the state and large companies in California, Colorado, and other states that have interests in businesses in North Dakota, want to view deeds and other associated documents on their computer at their place of business. The trend has helped the state push digitizing county records and other legal documents.
Phase one of the digitizing process is complete. All the records in Kubat’s office have been digitized. Phase two will be complete within the next year or so. For phase two, the documents’ images have to be cleaned up. Phase three deals with indexing all of the digitized images, and they will be available online for viewing. Kubat sees the project completed in the next three to four years.
Kubat did say that all the records in her care have been recorded on microfilm and are stored in a salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“If something would happen…we would be able to have the office up and running in a very short time because we would get the microfilm from Hutchinson, Kansas and then reproduce my office,” Kubat said.
Kubat and Clouse admit that they have had more work to do lately because of the Vanguard assessment. Some deeds have discrepancies in things like lot descriptions.
Kubat does not rest on her laurels. She continues to strive to improve herself and her office. In 2014 she was elected President of the North Dakota Association of Counties. She also served as President of the North Dako a Register of Deeds Association from 1999 to 2001.