Dedham – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O'Donnell reminded consumers today about the importance of filing a mortgage discharge in a timely manner after their mortgage has been paid off.
Register O’Donnell stated, "As consumers, we all need to borrow money. There are many reasons why consumers borrow money—to purchase a house, to make home improvements, or to help pay for the ever-increasing tuition payments of our children. The borrowing of money involving real estate leads to a mortgage being recorded against the title of that real estate."
In calendar year 2022, there were over 130,000 documents recorded at the Norfolk Registry of Deeds, and of that number, more than 23,200 were mortgages, nearly 20% of all documents recorded in 2022.
To clear a homeowner’s property title when a mortgage has been paid off, a mortgage discharge document needs to be recorded with the Registry of Deeds. 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."
"As a consumer, you want to make sure a discharge has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds, which tells the world that that mortgage has been paid off," noted Register O'Donnell.
In some instances, mortgage 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 cases, the mortgage discharge is sent to the property owner, who then becomes responsible for making sure the document is recorded.
Register O'Donnell cautioned, "Whether or not the mortgage discharge is recorded by the lending institution or the individual property owner, it is imperative that the property owner makes sure all necessary documents have been recorded at the Registry of Deeds."
Individuals with property recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds can check their title and make sure all their mortgages have been properly discharged using the Registry’s online records at www.norfolkdeeds.org. By going to the Online Research section of our website, property owners can verify that all mortgages associated with the property have been discharged.
Register O’Donnell cautioned residents, "Please remember that not having a mortgage discharged will result in a title issue and thereby impact the process of selling one’s home."
The Register further noted that there have been cases where no discharge has been recorded against a long-paid-off mortgage. "Unfortunately, some of the lending institutions that provided funds for these mortgages are no longer in existence. In other cases, financial entities have merged with another lending institution."
If a property owner needs to retrieve the original discharge of a mortgage and it is unclear which lending institution is now responsible for providing the document, an option is to contact the Massachusetts Division of Banks at 1-800-495-2265 x-1 and then x-61501. Another option is to access the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation website, www.fdic.gov. Then find the BankFind tab approximately halfway down the home page, put in the lending institution in question, then click on the lending institution link, and you will be able to determine who has responsibility for the mortgage.
When recording a mortgage discharge, the original document is required. By law, the Registry of Deeds cannot accept photocopies or faxed copies of documents. The filing fee, set by state statute, is $106.00.
In conclusion, Register O’Donnell stated, "After paying off all the mortgages on their property, homeowners want to know they have a clear title to their property, especially if they are contemplating selling. Knowing what steps need to be taken to ensure all paid-off mortgages have been properly discharged will go a long way in giving the homeowner assurances that they have clear title to their property. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that homeowners make sure their mortgage discharge has been filed with the Registry of Deeds once their mortgage has been paid off."
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is staffed with a team of customer service representatives who can be reached Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM–4:30 PM, at 781-461-6101. These representatives have been trained in researching documents and are well versed on the subject of mortgage discharges and what, if necessary, needs to be done to clear title to a property.