Norwood, MA- Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O'Donnell appeared as a guest speaker at the Norwood Council on Aging building June 12, as part of his ongoing efforts to bring the Registry of Deeds directly to the residents of Norfolk County.
"We appreciate that the register was able to come and speak about homestead protection and deed scams, it’s important that seniors and the public stay informed," said Nanci Kelleher, Program Director for the Norwood Senior Center. "I wish more people knew about this information, especially now that there are scams out there taking advantage of people."
Register O’Donnell gave an overview of the Registry of Deeds, which is the principal office for real property records in Norfolk County, cataloging and housing more than 10 million land documents dating back to 1793.
"I welcome any time I can get out into the community and have the opportunity to speak with people about some issues that homeowners might face," said Register of Deeds William P. O'Donnell. "It is especially meaningful, having grown up in Norwood, to come and speak at the Norwood Senior Center and provide valuable information to our seniors who may be vulnerable to scams and frauds."
Register O’Donnell spent time warning those attending the event about an ongoing deed scam that is being perpetrated against all citizens of Norfolk County, young and old. Norfolk County residents continue to receive direct-mail solicitations offering them a certified copy of their property deed for exorbitant fees. The average price for a mailed homeowner’s certified deed by the Registry, usually two pages, is $3.00.
"Don’t fall victim to this deed scam. These companies are making outrageous profits. If a consumer knew that the Registry of Deeds would provide them a certified copy of a property deed for a charge of only $1.00 per page, plus an additional $1.00 for postage, they would never agree to pay these companies such an outrageous fee for service," stated Register O'Donnell.
Register O’Donnell discussed the advantages of the Massachusetts Homestead Act. The Homestead Act is an important consumer protection tool for homeowners, as it provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000.
"Homeowners can have peace of mind knowing that with a Declaration of Homestead recorded at the Registry of Deeds, their primary residence cannot be forcibly sold to satisfy most debts. This is especially important when you consider that for most of us, a home is our most valuable asset," said O’Donnell.
The Register also reminded attendees about the importance of filing a mortgage discharge after their mortgage has been paid off. A discharge is a document (typically one or two pages) issued by the lender, usually with a title such as "Discharge of Mortgage" or "Satisfaction of Mortgage".
"When a mortgage has been paid off, a mortgage discharge document needs to be recorded with the Registry of Deeds to clear a homeowner’s property title relative to that loan," said O’Donnell.
The Register elaborated on mortgage discharges for the attendees, who seemed particularly interested in the topic.
"In some cases," noted O’Donnell, "discharges are filed directly by banks or settlement closing attorneys with the Registry as part of a property sale or as a result of a refinancing transaction. In other instances, the mortgage discharge is sent to the property owner, who then becomes responsible for making sure the document is recorded. Whether or not a discharge is recorded by the lending institution or the individual property owner, it is important that the property owner makes sure all necessary documents have been recorded at the Registry of Deeds."
Concluding his remarks, O’Donnell stated, "I first want to thank those who attended the event. They asked great questions, and their attendance was greatly appreciated. I also want to thank Kerri McCarthy, [Executive Director] for inviting me to speak, Nanci Kelleher, [Program Director] for helping coordinate the event, the members of the Norwood Council on Aging board, and all the staff who do an outstanding job advocating for and serving the seniors of Norwood."