Massachusetts Agencies

Liens: Expiration and Dissolution

Real Estate Taxes and Municipal Charges

G.L.c. 60, §23, which has to do with the dissolution of a tax lien, provides, as we discussed, that the timely recordation of a municipal lien operates as a discharge of all real estate and municipal liens that are not shown on the certificate (except for those that are the subject of a recorded tax taking). This legislation could be characterized as the "you-told-us-so-and-now-you-have-to live-with-it" statute.[1]

On the other hand, G.L.c. 60, §37, which has to do with the expiration of the real estate tax lien on account of the passage of time, provides as follows:

Taxes assessed upon land . . . shall . . . be a lien thereon from January first in the year of assessment. [S]uch lien shall terminate at the expiration of three years from October first in said year, if in the meantime the estate has been alienated and the instrument alienating the same has been recorded, otherwise it shall continue until a recorded alienation thereof; but if while such lien is in force a tax sale or taking has been recorded . . . the lien shall continue . . . .

The above statute would result in the lien for taxes to expire within three years provided (i) the deed to the new purchaser was recorded and (ii) no tax taking or sale was recorded within three years of October first of the year of assessment or before the deed was so recorded, whichever shall later occur.

1 Even though the lien is discharged the personal liability to pay the tax — a liability of the person against whom it was assessed—remains undisturbed.