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Matai titles, deeds, land leases —Territorial Registrar's fees go up

Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Office of the Territorial Registrar has issued a “final” notice of the increase of fees in the services it provides, effective next month, after meeting requirements under the local statute. The move to hike fees comes after it was put on hold following public concerns, especially from the Senate late last year. 

The Territorial Registrar’s Office is one of the agencies within the Department of Legal Affairs, headed by Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo V. Ale, who last year issued a Notice of Intended Action hiking fees to become effective Oct. 22, 2018.  At the same time, the Office was accepting public comments.

Among the concerns raised by senators, during a Senate committee hearing was the proposed fee hike in the registration of matai titles from the current $12 to $500. One of the issues raised was the hike would not only discourage matai registration but also discourage objections to such fillings, which was also proposed to at $500.

Other proposed amendments at the time included the registration fee for a Deed to be increased from $12 to $100; the fee for registering a land lease and/ or house lease from $12 to $100, which was the same proposed fee amount for Separation Agreements.

Last week Friday, Territorial Registrar Taito Sam White issued a “Notice of New Fee Schedule” effective Feb. 11, 2019 after complete compliance with current statute, and amending fees for services provided by the Territorial Registrar’s Office, outlined in the regulations under the American Samoa Administrative Code.

The schedule of the new fee hikes shows figures lower than those proposed last year.

For example, it will be $200 to register a matai title and/ or letter of objection to any matai title registration, not the $500 originally proposed.

For Deeds, the new registration fee is $50, which is also the same fee for registering a Land Lease, House Lease and/or any objections to these filings; and land registration, and/or letter of objection to any land registration.

During a Senate committee hearing last September on the previous proposed fee hikes,  Andrew Sunia, legal counsel for the Territorial Registrar’s Office, explained that the last time the fees were hiked was back in 1987 and the increase is long overdue, saying the cost of operations has increased over the years.

ASG witnesses during that hearing explained that the government was at the time going through the administrative process — in accordance with the law — by seeking public comments.

Two ASG officials told Samoa News this week that the final fee schedule increase set for next month is the result of public comments, including those from the Senate hearing.

In his 2019 State of the Territory Comprehensive Report to the Fono, the governor noted that the Department of Legal Affairs is currently working on facilitating several pending and ongoing projects such as updating Territorial Registrar fees and an American Samoa Registry Digitization for all territorial records archived at the Territorial Registrar’s Office.

Click on attachment to download new fee schedule.