The Massachusetts land records consist of all documents related to the ownership of real property in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Compared to many other states, the Massachusetts land records are online, which makes searching them easy.
I recommend that every property owner check their land records once a year, to keep an eye on filings that are not common and should be addressed right away.
Searching the Land Records
The Massachusetts land records are available online at masslandrecords.com. Each county keeps records in an individual registry of deeds. The process of filing a document in the land records is known as recording, which is done at each registry.
Massachusetts uses two types of land recording systems: (1) recorded and (2) registered land.
Recorded land is the most common system, with recorded documents generally organized by book and page numbers. This is a relic of the past when such records were kept in individual books. Even though records are now all digitally, the old book/page system is still used.
Registered land is a recording system that Land Court oversees. Documents are organized by certificates of title, which group similar property documents together. Compared to recorded land, the requirements for recording documents in registered land are much stricter.
Common Documents in the Land Records
The common documents found in the Massachusetts land records are those associated with the sale of a property. Deeds, mortgages, mortgage assignments, and mortgage discharges are regularly found in the land records.
Other normal documents in the land records are zoning decisions, for an approved variance or special permit, and declarations of homestead, which provide certain protections for owner-occupied property.
Absent anything that looks unusual, property owners should not be concerned about seeing any of these documents in the land records.
Problematic Documents in the Land Records
The recording of certain documents in the land records can be a sign of a legal matter that needs to be addressed right away.
If a homeowner owes money to someone else, a lien may be recorded against their property. This is a debt that will have to be satisfied before the property is sold. Property owners should be particularly mindful of property tax liens, which come with strict penalties if not timely resolved.
Any documents concerning a Servicemembers Civil Relief Act case is generally a sign that a foreclosure sale is forthcoming. If a homeowner sees such a document, they should speak to their lender immediately to see what can be done to avoid foreclosure.
Some court cases, such as partition, require notice to be filed in the land records. If a homeowner sees any such legal notices, they should speak to a lawyer immediately to figure out what is going on.
If you need assistance with any matter concerning the land records, contact me for a consultation.