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Articles from The Massachusetts Focus

Newsletter of Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Massachusetts Offices
Summer 2002, Volume 1, Number 2

Paralegal Page
by Donald Brown, Paralegal

How to Get a Discharge When You Didn't Pay Off the Mortgage

In connection with the question posed by this article, a good place to start, once you discover that there are prior mortgages that have outstanding discharges in the chain of title, is with the settlement agent who handled the last transaction in the chain of title. Usually, that settlement agent has the information necessary in his old file to provide a good starting point in researching if the prior mortgage was paid off at that transaction or who provided payoff for the prior mortgage. In some cases, that settlement agent may have the original discharge in their old file. Even if they don't, they should be able to provide payoff information for the same.

I know that in many cases where there is a missing discharge, we may not have ample time to go back and contact the settlement agent and then wait for them to pull their file, especially when we have very old mortgages that are undischarged and even incorrectly discharged. That's when we may be able to go back and research the problem of a missing discharge ourselves. In cases when we can't find a mortgage company, even if we are provided with payoff information, there are some very useful websites that may be able to provide some direction in obtaining information into some of these mortgage companies. (For more information please see the next section "Websites, Phone Numbers, and Addresses to Know.") When we are finally able to confirm if there have been any name changes, mergers, or acquisitions, and find addresses for the offices of the business entities we are looking for, then we can finally request the discharge.

In preparing a request for a discharge of a mortgage, we have to remember a couple of things. The first thing to remember is that many mortgage companies may not use the word "discharge," as commonly used here. The second is that we have to make sure that we are general in our requests to the mortgage companies and remember words such as lien release and satisfaction of mortgage. The most commonly sent requests go to the mortgage companies, lien release departments, and/or payoff departments. In the opening of the request, advise the mortgage company who it is you or your firm represent and what it is you are trying to do. In the body you should have the mortgagor's name, the name of the original mortgage company, the amount, the date, and the mortgage recording information. After describing the mortgage, start a new paragraph and formally request the document that you are looking for; i.e., discharge, lien release, and satisfaction. Include with the letter copies of the face and last page of the mortgage, pertinent assignments if any, any payoff you may have obtained, and title rundown/abstract that reveals the outstanding discharge. Another helpful thing to include in your request is the mortgagors' social security numbers. Sometimes the mortgage company can research a loan in their system that way. Try to remember that the more information that you can possibly give the better, be general in the way that you write the letter. As an alternative to contacting the settlement agent, you can always notify the title company of the potential outstanding mortgage. 

Websites, Phone Numbers, and Addresses to Know

Used to locate banks through closings and mergers.

Helpful in providing information on name changes.

Provides information for Bank, Savings Associations and holding companies that are FDIC Insured (especially helpful in finding banks that have been taken over by the FDIC).

For a fee they will obtain your payoffs for you.

Bankruptcy Automated System 617-565-6025

Provides voice activated information by name, social security number, or docket number.

Division of Medical Assistance

The Division of Medical Assistance has moved to Worcester. The new address for 118E §32 notices is:

Division of Medical Assistance
P.O. Box 15205
Worcester, MA 01615-9906