Massachusetts Agencies

Discharge by Joint Holder


General Laws, Chapter 183, Section 54 makes reference to one of two or more "joint holders," and not "joint tenants." (Emphasis added). Although, clearly, under General Laws, Chapter 183, Section 4 mortgagees take pursuant to the common law and hold the mortgage as joint tenants, General Laws, Chapter 183, Section 54 does not appear to make reference to the tenancy under which the mortgage is held, but rather to the fact that the mortgage is held by more than one party. Although the tenancy by which the mortgage is held becomes important in answering the question as to whom payment should be made in the event of and after the death of one or more of the holders (see Park v. Parker, 216 Mass 405 (1914) and Bertolami v. Corsi, 27 Mass.App.Ct. 1132 (1989)), discharge by one before the death of the other (regardless of the tenancy) appears to effectively and completely discharge the mortgage. In fact, it appears to me, General Laws, Chapter 183, Section 54 seems to be nothing more than a codification of the common law that a release by one of two or more obligees will effectively extinguish the debt (and if it is secured by a mortgage, a fortiori, causing the mortgage to fail) and bar action upon its enforcement by the other obligees, though the obligee giving the release may be bound to account to his co-obligees. See Myrick v. Dame, 9 Cush. 248 (1852). See also, Crocker's Notes on Common Forms, Seventh Edition, Little Brown and Company (1955), §553.

Notwithstanding the statute, under Pineo v. White, 320 Mass. 487, 70 N.E.2d 294 (1947) it was held that a wife who held a mortgage with her spouse could not discharge the mortgage without the other spouse joining in the discharge because the signing spouse could not be considered a "joint holder," for the reason that there was a unity of title between the spouses, as they would be deemed to hold the mortgage as tenant by the entirety. Now, even a discharge from a tenant by the entirety will be deemed good after the expiration of a ten-year period. G.L.c. 183, §54A.