I lost my deed. What should I do?

It should not be a problem. You don’t need an original deed to sell or refinance property. You can obtain a copy from the Registry of Deeds or download it from our on-line site. A certified copy of your deed has the same legal effect as the original. To obtain a certified copy, you can come to the Registry and look up your recording information, that is, the book and page number (if recorded land) or document number (if registered land) of your deed. The Registry staff will be happy to assist you.

What is the difference between recorded land and registered land?

Recorded land is the most common type of ownership in Middlesex County. Documents affecting real estate, such as deeds and mortgages, if properly prepared and legally acceptable, are recorded at the Registry of Deeds in chronological order and assigned a book and page number. They are then indexed by grantor, grantee, document type and address. The documents affecting a particular piece of property are searched, analyzed and examined by a party seeking to determine the legal status of the ownership rights in the property. This status is referred to as the title to the property. In Middlesex County, the title search is usually done by a trained examiner or attorney hired by the buyer or buyer’s lender. Registered land comprises about twenty percent of the property in Middlesex County. Under this system (sometimes referred to as the “Torrens” system) the Massachusetts Land Court has adjudicated and decreed the status of the title. Thereafter, subsequent owners of registered land are issued numbered certificates describing the property and noting any encumbrances (such as mortgages) or rights affecting the property. Documents filed in the registered section are assigned document numbers, not book and page numbers. The criteria for filing documents affecting registered land are much stricter than those affecting recorded land.

What do I have to do after I pay off my mortgage?

Once you pay off your mortgage a discharge document is prepared by the lender. A discharge makes reference to the borrower’s name, the property address and the book and page number (if recorded land) or document number (if registered land) of the recorded mortgage and states that the mortgage is discharged or satisfied. It is signed by an official of the lender and notarized. The original discharge is often sent to the borrower but it is sometimes sent directly to the Registry of Deeds. If it is sent to you, you must bring (or Mail) the original to the Registry. Please see the Fee schedule for details.

I want to add a name to my deed. How do I do that?

You will have to prepare, execute and record a new deed. It is advisable to obtain a copy of your deed and bring it to your attorney for preparation of the new deed. The attorney should explain the different types of tenancy that would be noted on the deed. We do not have deed forms at the Registry.

My spouse died and his name is on the deed. Do I have to record a new deed?

Usually you will not have to record a new deed. If you owned the property with your spouse as tenants by the entirety or as joint tenants, the property passes directly to you upon the death of your spouse. You should record a certified copy of your spouse’s death certificate and an affidavit regarding estate tax pursuant to Mass. General Laws Chapter 65C, Section 14 (if you have a question about the estate tax, consult an attorney or accountant). The death certificate and affidavit should include your title reference (the book and page or document number of the deed to you and your spouse).

I married and my deed has my maiden name. Do I have to change the deed?

You will not have to change the deed unless you want to change your tenancy. For example, you may have owned the property as a tenant in common with your fiancé and after the marriage you may want to change to a tenancy by the entirety. If you do not need to change the tenancy, you will only have to refer to both your married and maiden name in a deed when you sell the property (for example, “Mary Smith, formerly known as Mary Jones… grant to…”).

I see a document called “Municipal  Lien Certificate” recorded with my address. Is this a lien against my home?

A Municipal  Lien Certificate (“MLC”) is a legal document that lists any unpaid taxes, assessments and/or utility charges against a property. Typically, an MLC is requested by the attorney at the time of a sale or refinance and then recorded at the registry. Recording the MLC protects the new owner by confirming the charges owed at the time of the sale or refinance, or by confirming that there is no balance due. The owner’s liability for the unpaid charges is then limited to those itemized on the MLC.

How do I know if there are liens affecting my property and how would I remove them?

You can come to the Registry (or check on-line) and look up your name in the grantor index to see if any liens have been filed against you or the property. There are many different types of liens, for example, mechanic’s liens, attachments, executions, municipal tax takings and federal or Massachusetts income tax liens. Generally, once the lien has been paid off, the party imposing the lien would have to prepare a release of lien and the release document should be recorded. There may be specific recording requirements for the release document so you may want to check with your attorney or call the Registry to see what type of release is required.

What is a life estate?

A life estate is an interest in property created by a deed, will or trust that entitles the holder to specific rights in the property for the term of the holder’s life. Such rights may include the right to live in, use and/or collect income from the property. The document that creates the life estate should be reviewed to determine the extent of the rights. The creation of a life estate may have estate-planning and tax implications and benefits. A real estate or estate-planning attorney would be able to provide more information on the benefits of creating a life estate.

How do I get a copy of my plot plan?

A plot plan, sometimes referred to as a “mortgage inspection” plan, is generally prepared in connection with a refinance of the property. It shows the “foot print” of the building on the lot and denotes the sideline and frontage distances. These types of plans are drawn, usually by measuring tape and not with a surveyor’s instrument, to certify that the property is in compliance with the zoning laws. This type of plan is fine for financing purposes but it may be unreliable. Mortgage inspection plans are not considered sufficient to determine exact lot line locations. Another type of plot plan, referred to as a “certified” plot plan, is based on a more thorough examination and re-tracing based on a field survey and the description of the property deed and the deeds to abutting properties. This may be the plan requested by the city or town building inspector. If you are not able to obtain such a plan from a prior owner, you can hire a professional surveyor to prepare one for you. The building inspector may be able to recommend a surveyor or you can find one in a business telephone directory. The plans at the Registry of Deeds are not considered plot plans.

What is Unindexed Property Information?

Plan or Land information that has been scanned but not indexed. Some Registries have information that has been scanned but not yet indexed. This information can be viewed from the web site but you must know the Book and Page in order to retrieve the information.

How do I view multiple pages in Plans?

To view multiple pages in plans, use the “Unindexed Property Search” tab, choose “plans,” then fill in the book and page number that you need. To select from all images in the plan book, just fill in the book number.

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Middlesex South Registry of Deeds
208 Cambridge Street, PO Box 68
Cambridge, MA 02141
Main Number: 617-679-6300

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