Massachusetts Land Records

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.

Final Thoughts

If you need assistance with any matter concerning the land records, contact me for a consultation.

Massachusetts’ Land Records: Five Things to Know

Massachusetts’ land records are an essential tool for any real estate matter, whether it be a real estate dispute or transaction (such as buying or selling a home).

Here, I’ll discuss five things to know about Massachusetts’ land records.

Free, Online Access

I’m from Vermont. While I would take a Vermont beer over a Massachusetts beer on any given day, I wouldn’t trade Massachusetts’ land records for anything. Vermont (like many other states) uses paper for all of their land records. If you want to search the land records, you need to visit the individual town or city.

In Massachusetts, our land records are online: www.masslandrecords.com. This is a tremendous resource for anyone involved in a Massachusetts real estate matter.

Although documents may be viewed online, the process of filing land records (known as “recording”) usually must be done at one of the physical registry locations. E-recording is allowed in some locations, but not all, and generally requires pre-registration.

Recorded v. Registered Land

Massachusetts uses two systems of land registration: recorded and registered land.

Recorded land is the most commonly used Massachusetts land records system. Documents are generally recorded individually, with references to other related documents, to make it easier to search.

Registered land is a land record system overseen by Land Court. The requirements for recording registered documents are more stringent than those for recorded land, and sometimes require approval from the court itself for any changes to be made. Recorded land is organized into “certificates of title”, which group together related land documents.

Common Documents to Find in Land Records

Common documents to find in the land records include deeds, mortgages, mortgage assignments, and homestead filings. All of these documents are associated with the buying and selling of property.

Court decisions can also be recorded in the land records. For example, if a homeowner prevails in a boundary dispute against a neighbor, the decision can and should be recorded so as to make it part of the chain of title, so future buyers of both properties become aware of the decision.

Problematic Documents to Find in Land Records

Some documents recorded in the land records can be problematic, and should be checked closely by a property owner. Judgments for money, where a court has ordered one party to pay another money, can be recorded in the land records as a lien on property. These generally must be satisfied prior to the sale of property. Liens can also arise from unpaid property and federal/state taxes.

The recording of a notice of a Servicemembers’ Case is often a prerequisite for the start of the foreclosure process. A homeowner who receives such a notice needs to act quickly to address the matter.

Affidavits to Clarify the Chain of Title

Massachusetts law allows the recording of an affidavit in the land records, for the “benefit and assistance in clarifying the chain of title.” Such an affidavit must have a certificate from an attorney.

These affidavits are helpful for explaining or clarifying real estate matters that are not otherwise apparent from other recorded documents.

Commonly known as “5B Affidavits”, these documents can be a great tool for resolving real estate disputes.

Conclusion

If you need assistance with a real estate matter, contact me for a consultation.