New Mortgage Discharge Statute
Articles from The Massachusetts Focus
Newsletter of Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Massachusetts Offices
Summer 2006, Volume 5, Number 3
An Act to Provide Remedies to Consumers for Clearing Title After Payoff of Mortgages
by Ward P. Graham, New England Division Counsel
Outline of Ch. 63 of the Acts of 2006
Chapter 63 of the Acts of 2006, REBA’s omnibus real estate mortgage discharge reform legislation, is the culmination of a three-year effort by the Association’s leadership in a successful collaboration with Registers of Deeds and industry trade groups, including the Massachusetts Bankers Association (MBA), the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association (MMBA), the Massachusetts Credit Union League and the Massachusetts Land Title Association. The bill, bringing penalties for noncompliance in the Commonwealth into line with the majority of other states, also adopts certain provisions of the Uniform Residential Mortgage Satisfaction Act. REBA’s goal was to resolve as many as possible of the mortgage discharge problems practitioners have been experiencing in the last 10 to 15 years and to do so using as much as possible the existing statutory framework. The following is an outline of the important provisions of the Act.
A. SECTION 1 – Amending G.L.c. 183, §54 – Discharges Generally
1. Definitions – §54(a)
a. New Definitions
(1) "Authorized Person"
(a) a person authorized to act on behalf of another person by a written document, e.g., a closing attorney
(b) photocopy, facsimile or scanned image of such document can be relied upon
(c) relates to requests, notices and demands under various provisions of §§54 through 55
(2) "Bank confirmation of wire transmission"
(a) a written confirmation of wire transmission issued by the institution transmitting payment reciting beneficiary account number and other payee information prescribed in a payoff statement
(b) may be written printout by facsimile or other electronic transmission
(c) relates to the presumed date of receipt under §55(f) of a notice, demand, request or payment under other provisions of the statute, such as §55(g)(1)(iv)(evidence of payment), sixth subparagraph of 55(g)(2)(evidence of payment)
(a) a grantor of a mortgage, the grantor's heirs, successors or assigns, or
(b) any other person who is an obligor
(4) "Recording information"
(a) date of recording or filing of a document and
(b) the applicable book and page numbers or land court document number
b. Existing Definitions Significantly Modified or Deleted
(a) now includes an instrument that, by its terms, discharges or releases a mortgage or the lien thereof even if it doesn’t acknowledge payment or satisfaction of the mortgage or the underlying debt, obligations or conditions therein contained
(b) redefines partial release as a duly executed and acknowledged instrument that, by its terms, discharges or releases a mortgage or the lien thereof from less than all of the property encumbered by the mortgage
(2) "Federally related mortgage loan" (and references thereto in former §§ 54 through 55) – Deleted
(3) "Payoff statement"
(a) for purposes of these statutes, must be written
(b) can be a written printout by facsimile or other electronic transmission
(c) can be issued by a mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder
(d) includes a statement indicating the amount that must be paid in order to obtain a partial release
2. Method of Discharging a Mortgage – §54(b)
a. Joint Holders – Retains longstanding rule that mortgage may be discharged by 1 of 2 or more joint holders.
b. Mortgage servicers or note holders – Even if not mortgagee of record, may also discharge but discharge must comply with the requirements of new subsection (b) of section 55 (requiring documentation establishing authority to discharge).
c. Proof of Execution of Unacknowledged Discharge – May be proven not only by statutory procedures under c. 183, §§34-41, but also by other evidence in the form of documents or affidavits which, if not otherwise in recordable form, may be attached to an affidavit under c. 183, §5B.
d. Late Recorded Assignments – Provides specific statutory authority for perfection of discharge from non-record holder by later recording of appropriate assignment(s).
B. SECTION 2 – Amending G.L.c. 183, §54B – Authority to Sign Documents Without Vote
1. The ability to rely on a discharge, partial release or assignment of a mortgage executed by a person purporting to hold various offices or positions with a mortgage holding entity without the necessity of a vote has now been expanded to include instruments of subordination, non-disturbance, recognition, or attornment, a power of attorney for the purpose of foreclosing a mortgage held by any such holder and the execution of any instrument necessary for that purpose.
C. SECTION 3 – Amending G.L.c. 183, §54C and Adding New §54D
1. Amendments to §54C – Subsection (a) – Discharges by Servicers and Note Holders
a. Subsection (a) – Provisions of §54C only apply to 1-4 family residential property
b. Mortgage can be discharged by mortgage servicer or note holder but, if not also holder of record and discharge is not accompanied by documentation establishing the authority of the servicer or note holder to discharge, then:
(1) Discharge by a mortgage servicer – §54C(a)(1):
(a) Can be perfected by recording an original or photocopy of
(i) the servicing agreement
(ii) power of attorney
(iii) servicing notice letter to the borrowers
(iv) written payoff statement issued to a mortgagor, closing attorney or settlement agent, including a payoff statement issued by facsimile or other electronic transmission, or
(v) other document evidencing the authority of the mortgage servicer to service the mortgage
(b) If not already in recordable form, such documents may be recorded along with or after the discharge attached to a c. 183, §5B affidavit
(c) If the authority document is a copy rather than an original, it must be certified to be a true copy by the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder or a Massachusetts attorney who has seen an original of the document
(d) A facsimile or a printout of an electronic transmission to the attorney may be treated as an original document and may be recorded if certified by the attorney to be an original printout or a true copy of the original printout
(2) Discharge by note holder – 54C(a)(2):
(a) Can be perfected by recording an original or photocopy of the note, with the endorsements showing the transfer of ownership of the note to the holder
(b) As an exhibit to the discharge, or
(c) If the note is recorded after the discharge, it shall be recorded as provided in subsection (h) of section 55 [recording of paid note as discharge] and marginally referenced to the discharge
(d) If a copy of the note is recorded, the copy shall contain or be accompanied by
(i) a certificate duly executed and acknowledged by the note holder that it is a true copy of the original or
(ii) an affidavit by a Massachusetts attorney that the attorney has seen the original note with the endorsements thereon and the copy being recorded is a true copy thereof.
(3) Affidavits When Supporting Documents Unavailable – §54C(a)(3)
(a) If the supporting documents for a mortgage servicer or note holder cannot be obtained, the discharge may be effected by recording an affidavit by the owner of the property and an affidavit by an attorney:
(i) Affidavit by the Owner of the property – §54C(a)(3)(i)(A)
(A) If mortgagor(s) still own(s), an affidavit by any mortgagor:
(I) affirming the inability to obtain any of the documents, payments made and the reasons why the payments were made to such mortgage servicer or note holder, and
(II) attaching evidence of the payments in the form of one or more billing statements, a written payment history, nnual principal and interest payment statement or other written acknowledgment of payment from the servicer or note holder
(ii) Affidavit By Subsequent Owner when mortgagor(s) cannot be located [or are uncooperative] – §54C(a)(3)(i)(B)
(A) affirming the owner has owned for more than one year
(B) owner purchased subsequent to the mortgage
(C) deed made no reference to the mortgage remaining outstanding [or being assumed]
(D) the owner purchased in good faith and for value in the belief that the premises were not encumbered by the mortgage
(E) the owner has not made any payments on account of the mortgage and that no claims have been made against the owner under the mortgage
AND, in either case, to be accompanied by
(b) Affidavit by a Massachusetts Attorney – 54C(a)(3)(ii)
(i) who, pursuant to a payoff statement from the mortgage servicer or note holder, transmitted funds to the mortgage servicer or note holder sufficient to satisfy the mortgage,
(ii) who has ascertained that such payment was made by another closing attorney or settlement agent, and
(iii) the affidavit certifies that:
(A) neither the documents necessary to support the discharge nor a proper confirmatory discharge from the mortgagee have been received, despite a written demand therefor sent at least 30 days before the date of the affidavit,
(B) the demand described the circumstances of the payoff and provided copies of any documentary evidence thereof;
(C) the demand informed the servicer or note holder and the mortgagee that, absent objection received in writing by certified mail within 30 days after the postmark date of the demand, the affidavits will be recorded and will conclusively discharge the mortgage, and
(D) no such written objection was received.
c. Removal of Personal Identifier Information from Documents – §54C(b)
(1) New subsection (b) authorizes the removal of any personal identifier information from any document to be recorded under this section
(2) So long as it does not appear to substantially alter or change the content, tenor or nature of the document
2. Addition of New §54D – Payoff Statements
a. Requirement to Provide Reliable Payoff Statement upon Request – §54D(a)
(1) A mortgagee, note holder or servicer that is receiving payments is required, upon written request by the mortgagor or other authorized person, to provide a written payoff statement within 5 business days [see §54D(b)].
(2) The payoff statement shall provide sufficient information to allow for full payment to be made conclusively as of a certain payment date, which shall be specified in the request and which shall be no more than 30 days from the date of the request.
(3) The request writing may be provided by facsimile or other electronic forms of transmission as may be requested or authorized by the party from whom the payoff is being requested.
b. Transmission of Payoff Statement; Charge for Cost of Delivery – §54D(b)
(1) The written payoff statement may be transmitted by mail, overnight delivery, facsimile or other electronic transmission.
(2) Unless prohibited by law or the loan documents, the payoff statement provider may charge a reasonable fee for the cost of delivery of the payoff statement and may add it to the payoff amount.
c. 30-Day Time Limit on Validity of Payoff Statement; Obligation to Discharge Upon Payment – §54D(c)
(1) The payoff statement may impose a time limitation on the validity of the payoff statement of no less than 30 days from issuance, but if no such limit is imposed or payoff date requested is less than 30 days, then payoff statement must provide a formula, such as a per diem amount, to calculate a payoff beyond the requested payoff date and, if disbursements (such as taxes) are scheduled within the payoff period, the payoff statement must specify the amounts and anticipated dates of disbursement.
(2) If payment is made in accordance with the payoff statement, then the person or entity receiving payment is responsible to make sure a proper discharge under §55 is either recorded or provided to the closing attorney.
d. Corrective Payoff Statement – §54D(d)
(1) If the payoff statement provider determines there was an error in the payoff statement, a corrected payoff statement may be sent to the recipient of the original payoff statement.
(2) Corrected payoff statement will supersede the earlier statement but only if the corrected statement is received in sufficient time to provide the recipient a reasonable opportunity to act on it.
(3) However, an Erroneous Statement may still be binding as to any person that reasonably and detrimentally relies upon it.
e. Line of Credit Mortgage Payoff Statements – §54D(d)
(1) Payoff statement may not be binding as to a line of credit mortgage unless the person or entity providing the payoff statement has received, either with the payoff request or on or before the payoff date specified in the payoff request, a written request signed by one or more obligors directing that the line of credit or right to future advances be frozen or terminated.
f. Omitted Amounts Still Collectible from Obligors – §54D(d)
(1) Any amounts omitted from a payoff statement, whether original or corrected, may still be collected from the obligor(s).
g. Penalty – 54D(e)
(1) The statutory penalty for failure to comply is the greater of $500 or the affected borrower's actual damages, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.
h. Applicable to Partial Releases – §54D(c)
(1) Statute applies to requests for payment statements necessary to obtain partial releases as well.
i. Charge for Additional Payoff Statements – 54D(f)
(1) After the first payoff statement in any
6-month period, the payoff provider may charge reasonable fee for each additional payoff statement.
D. SECTION 4 – Amending G.L.c. 183, §55 – Requirement to Discharge; Procedures, Penalties; Discharges by Affidavit
1. Obligation to Discharge Upon Full Payment – §55(a)(1)
a. Mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder who receives full payment must, within 45 days of receipt of payment and irrespective of whether the recording fee has been withheld or charged:
(1) [Option 1] cause to be recorded a duly executed and acknowledged discharge that conforms with subsection (b) and provide to the closing attorney, settlement agent or other person transmitting the payoff a copy of the discharge, together with the recording information therefor, or
(2) [Option 2] provide to the closing attorney, settlement agent or other person transmitting the payoff a duly executed and acknowledged discharge, also so conforming.
b. Sending to Registry Not Enough to Comply – §55(a)(1)
(1) Under §55(a)(1), merely sending the discharge to the Registry of Deeds for recording and providing a copy of the discharge to the closing attorney without recording information does not constitute compliance with this section.
2. Documents, Disclosure and Recording Fees to Borrower Who Pays Off Mortgage – §55(a)(2)
a. If the payoff is made by the borrower and the discharge is provided to the Borrower, rather than being recorded directly, the discharge must be accompanied by:
(1) any supporting documentation required under §55(b),
(2) the recording fees for the supporting documentation and
(3) a transmittal letter that contains the disclosure statement set forth in the statute informing the borrower of the importance of recording the discharge at the registry of deeds and referring the borrower to an attorney or someone at the registry if the borrower needs assistance.
3. Documentation to Support Authority to Discharge Required – §55(b)
a. Subsection (b) requires a mortgage holder, mortgage servicer or note holder who is not the mortgagee of record but who records or provides the discharge to establish its authority to discharge by
(1) specifying the recording information for the documentation already on record supporting the authority to discharge, or
(2) recording the documentation, along with the discharge, or
(3) providing to the closing attorney or other person transmitting the payoff, along with the discharge, the documentation in recordable form necessary to establish the authority to discharge, as well as the recording fees
b. However, if the holder's status as such is based upon a corporate change of name or identity by any of the actions or events described in new Subsection (i) [reliance on corporate succession recitals in discharges and assignments] and the discharge refers to such actions or events, there is no need to provide or record any further documentation in support thereof.
4. Penalty Provisions – §55(c)(1)
a. Subsection (c)(1)(i) is the Penalty Provision that makes the mortgagee, mortgage servicer, note holder who has accepted full payment in accordance with the payoff statement but who fails to record or provide the discharge (or partial release), as well as the supporting documentation required by Section 55 or Section 54C within 45 days after the acceptance, liable to the mortgagor in an amount equal to the greater of $2,500 or the mortgagor’s actual damages, together with reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, in addition to all other remedies available at law.
b. Under Subsection (c)(1)(ii), the penalty is limited to actual damages sustained by the mortgagor if, within 30 days after receipt of a written demand by certified mail, in-hand or overnight delivery, the party responsible for recording or providing a discharge conforming with Subsections (a) and (b) does so and pays any actual damages reasonably established by the mortgagor as attributable to the prior failure to record.
5. Lender Safe Harbor – §55(c)(2)
a. Subsection (c)(2) provides a safe harbor from liability for any penalties if the party responsible to record or provide the discharge
(1) elects to provide the discharge to the closing attorney or borrower,
(2) can demonstrate that the discharge, supporting documentation and recording fees were sent
(a) by reference to documents contained in its business files or
(b) by showing that it established appropriate business procedures to ensure compliance with this section and routinely followed those procedures, and
(3) provides a proper confirmatory discharge within 30 days of receipt of a demand therefore by certified mail or commercial overnight or in-hand delivery, and
(4) the party providing the confirmatory discharge may charge a reasonable fee for doing so and is not responsible for recording fees for the discharge or any supporting documentation.
6. Closing Attorney/Settlement Agent Liability – §55(d)
a. New subsection (d) imposes the same responsibility on the closing attorney/settlement agent who has received a proper discharge to record it within 45 days of receipt.
b. If the closing attorney/settlement agent fails to record the discharge within that time, such person will be liable in damages to the mortgagor in an amount equal to the greater of $2,500 or the actual damages sustained by the mortgagor as the result of the failure, together with reasonable attorneys fees and costs, in addition to all other remedies available at law.
c. The liability set forth may be limited to actual damages sustained by the mortgagor if, within 30 days of receipt by certified mail, or in-hand delivery or overnight delivery of a written demand either to record the discharge or to provide it to the mortgagor or to another attorney closing a transaction on the mortgaged property, the person in possession of the discharge either records the discharge or provides it to the mortgagor or the other attorney making the demand, together with any recording fee previously withheld by the person from the mortgagor's funds.
7. Penalty for Charging or Withholding Recording Fees But Failing to Record Discharge and Refund Fees – §55(e)
a. Subsection (e) relates to 1-4 family residential property only.
b. A mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder who has withheld the recording fee for the discharge from the mortgagor's account, but fails to record the discharge, must, within 30 days after receipt of a written demand, either
(1) return to the mortgagor or credit the mortgagor's account all related recording fees charged or withheld, together with interest at 6%, or
(2) face liability to the mortgagor for the greater of
(a) the fees charged to or withheld from the mortgagor and not refunded or credited, with interest thereon, plus $2,500, or
(b) the mortgagor's actual damages,
(c) together with reasonable attorneys fees and costs, in addition to all other remedies available at law.
8. Presumption of Date of Receipt of Request, Demand, Notice or Funds – §55(f)
a. Subsection (f) creates a presumption of receipt of regular mail on the fifth day after the postmark date.
b. In the case of a wire transfer of funds, the date appearing on a bank confirmation of wire transmission is deemed to be the date of receipt of funds.
9. Discharges by Attorney’s Affidavit – §55(g)
a. Subsection (g) contains the various provisions relating to discharges by an attorney’s affidavit and applies to 1-4 family residential property only.
b. Pre-Existing Discharge Issues – Subsection (g)(1) contains the provisions relating to discharging by affidavit pre-existing undischarged or improperly discharged mortgages.
c. Dealing with Current Closing Discharge Issues – Subsection (g)(2) contains the provisions relating to discharging by affidavit current mortgages being paid off if proper discharge is not timely recorded or provided post-closing.
d. Affidavit to Fix Existing Discharge Issues – Subsection (g)(1) provides for the recording by a Massachusetts licensed attorney, relative to a mortgage that has been paid off but not discharged in accordance with Subsections (a) and (b), an affidavit that includes a description of the mortgage and any assignments thereof, including the parties thereto, the address of the mortgaged property and the recording information for the mortgage and any assignments, and that states:
(1) the affiant is an attorney-at-law in good standing and licensed to practice in Massachusetts;
(2) the affidavit is made on behalf of and at the request of the mortgagor, the mortgagor's successors or a mortgagee thereof;
(3) whether the affiant has been able to ascertain that the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder has provided a written payoff statement;
(4) the affiant has ascertained that the mortgagee, mortgage servicer, or note holder has received full payment of the indebtedness secured by the mortgage, and that the affiant is in possession of documentary evidence of the payment, which may include
(a) a check that has been negotiated by the mortgagee, mortgage servicer, or note holder,
(b) a bank confirmation of wire transmission, or
(c) other documentary evidence of full payment of the indebtedness secured by the mortgage, including
(i) written confirmation by the affiant or another Massachusetts attorney of an oral acknowledgement by the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder of full payment, or
(ii) an affidavit under section 5B by the closing attorney, settlement agent or other person transmitting the payoff describing the circumstances of the payoff and certifying
(A) that the person has not received from the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder any notification that the payment has been rejected or that there is any other objection to the adequacy of the payment and
(B) that the payoff transmittal has not been returned to the person as undeliverable or for any other reason, without being retransmitted to and received by the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder;
(5) more than 45 days have elapsed since such payment was received;
(6) the affiant or, if different, the closing attorney, settlement agent or other person transmitting payment, has not been provided either a discharge of mortgage or the recording information that evidences a recorded discharge in compliance with subsections (a) and (b), or, if provided, the discharge has not been recorded and is otherwise unavailable for any reason; and
(7) the affiant has given the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder to whom the payoff was sent at least 45 days' notice in writing by certified mail that the affiant intends to execute and cause to be recorded the affidavit, which notice shall
(a) refer to this subsection;
(b) be accompanied by copies of the proposed affidavit, the documentary evidence of payment and the payoff statement, if available, or contain a statement that a payoff statement is not available; and
(c) state that the affidavit will be recorded and will discharge the mortgage unless, within 45 days after receipt of the notice, the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder either
(i) has complied with the requirements of subsections (a) and (b) and demonstrated the same by written notice to the affiant,
(ii) has provided the affiant a confirmatory discharge, or
(iii) has notified the affiant in writing that the payment was inadequate and specifying the reason and amount of the inadequacy.
e. Preventing Post-Closing Discharge Issues – Subsection (g)(2) provides authority to a closing attorney or settlement agent who transmits a payoff to include with the payoff a notice of intention to record a discharge by affidavit if the payoff recipient does not record or provide a proper discharge
(1) The notice must refer to Subsection (g) (2) to inform the recipient of the provisions thereof and state further:
(a) that payment is being made in accordance with the enclosed payoff statement;
(b) that, within 45 days from receipt of the payment, either a discharge of the mortgage or the recording information that evidences a recorded discharge in compliance with subsections (a) and (b) must be provided by the recipient of the payoff to the closing attorney or settlement agent;
(c) that failure to so provide or record a proper discharge will expose the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder to liabilities and remedies under this section [Subsections c and e] and will, in addition, entitle the affiant to execute and cause to be recorded an affidavit discharging the mortgage in accordance with this section;
(d) that a copy of the proposed affidavit, which includes a description of the mortgage and any assignments, including the parties thereto, the address of the mortgaged property and the recording information for the mortgage and any assignments, is enclosed with the notice; and
(e) that the affidavit will be recorded and will discharge the mortgage unless, within 45 days after receipt of the notice, the affiant receives from the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder a written notice of objection to the payoff, specifying any inadequacy in payment or any other reason for objection.
(2) The notice of intention to record the affidavit may be sent by regular mail, certified mail or commercial overnight or in-hand delivery service.
(3) If payoff funds are transmitted by electronic transfer, a bank confirmation of wire transmission must accompany the notice.
f. Subsection (g)(3) – Notice to Mortgagee [Holder of Record]
(1) If the payoff and the notice were sent to a servicer or a note holder who was not a mortgagee, a like notice must be sent to the mortgagee at its last known address, but the mortgagee may object to the recording of the affidavit and discharge of the mortgage only if
(a) the mortgagee provides credible evidence to the affiant, within 45 days after receipt of the notice, that it is the true holder of the note, or other obligation secured by the mortgage, and
(b) claims that the payoff was inadequate, specifying the reason for the inadequacy, or
(c) claims that payment was erroneously made to someone who was not the proper holder of the note, debt or other claim or obligation secured by the mortgage and who was not acting properly on behalf of the mortgagee in receiving the payment.
(2) If such like notice is required to be sent under this paragraph, the affidavit, must also recite compliance with this paragraph.
g. Subsection (g)(4) – Protection Against Late-Recorded Assignment
(1) Relates only to discharge by affidavit pursuant to paragraph (2).
(2) An assignee of the mortgage being discharged whose assignment does not appear of record before the date the payoff was made, shall not have any right to the notice provided in paragraph (2) or the notice provided in paragraph (3), nor shall the assignee have any standing to object to or challenge the discharge as against a bona fide purchaser, mortgagee, lienholder or encumbrancer without notice, even if the assignment to the assignee is recorded before the recording of the affidavit.
h. Subsection (g)(5) – Recording Affidavit and Attaching Copy of Notices
(1) The affiant may record the affidavit unless, within the time periods specified in paragraphs (1), (2) and (3), the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder has given the affiant written notice of objection to the payoff, specifying the reason for objection.
(2) The affidavit must be accompanied by a copy of the notice but need not be accompanied by the documents enclosed with the notice.
i. Subsection (g)(6) – Affiant Notified of Objection
(1) In the event that the affiant is notified of an objection, the affidavit may not be recorded until the affiant determines that the mortgagor has complied with any request made for additional payment, or that any other objection has been satisfied, at least 15 days before the date of the affidavit without further objection being raised by the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder, and
(2) the affidavit must be amended to include a copy of the notice of objection and to certify to compliance or satisfaction of the objection with no further objection being made, at which time,
(3) the affidavit may be recorded without further notice to the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder.
j. Subsection (g)(7) – Mortgage Information in Affidavit; Validity Despite Failure to Include
(1) Requires that the affidavit include the names and last known addresses of the mortgagor and the mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder, the date of the mortgage and the mortgage recording reference, as well as that of any recorded assignment of the mortgage.
(2) However, failure to include such information or to certify a copy of any notice required to be attached as a true copy will not affect the validity of the affidavit or its effect as a discharge.
k. Subsection (g)(8) – Affidavit Constitutes Discharge; Ability to Collect Payment Shortfall from Obligor Personally
(1) The affidavit, when so recorded, will constitute a discharge of the mortgage in favor of a bona fide purchaser, mortgagee, lienholder or encumbrancer for value without notice.
(2) Mortgagee, mortgage servicer or note holder can still collect any deficiencies or other payments for which an obligor may be personally liable.
l. Subsection (g)(9) – Civil and Criminal Penalties for False Affidavit
(1) A person who causes a discharge affidavit to be created knowing
(a) that the information or statements contained therein or in any documentary evidence relied upon therefor is false or
(b) that the copy of any notice or document attached thereto or relied upon therefor is false,
(2) shall be punished by
(a) fine of not more than $5,000, in addition to all other remedies at law, both civil and criminal and,
(b) in the event of civil liability to anyone damaged thereby, attorneys fees and costs shall be awarded in addition to any award of damages.
m. Subsection (h) – Recording Original Note as Discharge; 1-4 Family Property
(1) In addition to the provisions of this section and sections 54 and 54C, a mortgage encumbering a 1-4 family residential property may be discharged by recording the original note secured by the mortgage, if the note is marked paid by the holder thereof as evidenced by the endorsements thereon.
(2) If not otherwise in recordable form, the note may be recorded as an attachment or exhibit to an affidavit under section 5B.
n. Subsection (i) – Reliance on Recitation in Discharge as to Corporate Succession
(1) Provides for recording and registration of a discharge, assignment, partial release or mortgage note where a change in the name or identity of a corporate mortgagee or mortgage note holder is caused by or results from one or more mergers, consolidations, amendments to charter or articles of incorporation, or conversions of articles of incorporation or charter from federal to state, from state to federal, or from one form of entity to another, or from acquisition of assets of a failed institution by or from a government regulatory authority, if there is a recital within the body of the instrument the fact of any such merger, consolidation, etc and no further evidence of the corporate merger, consolidation, etc., is required.
(2) The recital in the instrument shall be conclusive in favor of any bona fide purchaser, mortgagee, lienholder or encumbrancer for value relying in good faith thereon.
o. Subsection (j) – Joint and Several Liability
(1) Liability established under Section 55 against multiple parties shall be joint and several.
p. Subsection (k) – Recording Instrument From Which Personal Information Removed
(1) If any document authorized or required to be recorded pursuant to Section 55 contains personal identifier numbers, such as social security or tax identification numbers, or financial account numbers, such as checking, savings or investment account numbers, the numbers may be whited out, blackened out or otherwise obliterated so as to become illegible and the document shall be entitled nonetheless to recording so long as the obliteration does not appear to substantially alter or change the content, tenor or nature of the document.
E. SECTION 4A – Amending G.L.c. 184, §17B
1. Certain provisions of G.L.c. 184, §17B involving lender disclosures to consumer borrowers relating to the expiration date of the mortgage note and the interest rate to be charged have been stricken.
2. Provisions relating to disclosure to consumer borrowers by lenders that the mortgagee’s attorney represents the interests of the mortgagee and the borrowers may retain their own counsel at their own expense have been retained with slight modification.
F. SECTION 4B – Repeals G.L.c. 184, §17C and §17D
1. Provisions contained in G.L.c. 184, §§17C and 17D requiring certain residential lender disclosures to borrowers believed to be duplicative of substantially similar Federally-mandated disclosures were repealed by an amendment to the original bill sought by the Massachusetts Bankers Association.
G. SECTION 5 – Amending G.L.c. 240, §15 – Judicial Discharge of Mortgages
1. Subsection 15 has been modified
a. to create paragraphs (a) and (b) to provide for procedures to judicially discharge a mortgage both in cases where there is “direct” evidence of payment or satisfaction (paragraph (a)) and in cases where there is no “direct” evidence of payment or satisfaction but the mortgagor or the mortgagor’s successors have been in certain periods of uninterrupted possession without any enforcement activity by the mortgagee;
b. to make it easier to file a petition to judicially discharge a mortgage that is undischarged or not properly or legally discharged under G.L.c. 183, §55;
c. to specifically provide that, in addition to the mortgagor, the mortgagor's heirs, successors or assigns may file the petition;
d. to allow the petition to be filed in the land court or, except in the case of registered land, in the superior court for the county in which the land is located;
e. to allow for notice by publication or otherwise, as the court orders;
f. to mandate, under paragraph (a), a decree discharging the mortgage if the court finds on a preponderance of the evidence that the mortgage has been fully paid or satisfied and that the mortgage ought to be discharged;
g. to allow, under paragraph (b), a decree discharging the mortgage if no evidence is offered of a payment on account of the debt secured by the mortgage within the relevant period of uninterrupted possession or of any other act within that time in recognition of its existence as a valid mortgage;
h. to provide that the decree, when duly recorded in the registry of deeds for the county or district where the land lies or, in the case of registered land, when duly noted on the memorandum of encumbrances of the relevant certificate of title, shall operate as a discharge of the mortgage.
2. As to the periods of uninterrupted possession necessary to allow for the filing of a petition where no direct evidence of payment or satisfaction of a mortgage is available, Subsection 15 (b) provides that the mortgagor, or the mortgagor's heirs, successors or assigns must have been in uninterrupted possession of the land:
a. in the case of a successor or assign who is a bona fide purchaser for value or who is an heir, successor or assign of the bona fide purchaser for value, for any period of 20 years after the recording of a deed from the mortgagor or his heirs or devisees to the bona fide purchaser, which deed did not evidence that title was taken subject to the mortgage or that the purchaser assumed or agreed to pay the mortgage; or
b. in the case of the mortgagor, or the mortgagor's heirs, devisees or successors by operation of law, for any period of 1 year after the expiration of the time limited in the mortgage for the full performance of the condition thereof, or for any period of 20 years after the date of a mortgage not given to secure the payment of money or a debt but to secure the mortgagee against a contingent liability which has so ceased to exist that no person will be prejudiced by the discharge thereof.
H. SECTION 6 – Amending G.L.c. 260, §33 – Statute of Limitations on Enforcement of Mortgages
1. The former 50-yr statute of limitations for enforcement of a mortgage is reduced to:
a. 5 years from the expiration of the term or from the maturity or due date specified in the mortgage; or
b. 35 years from the recording of the mortgage if the mortgage does not specify a term, maturity or due date;
c. unless, in either case, an extension of the mortgage or an acknowledgment or affidavit that the mortgage is not satisfied is recorded pursuant to G.L.c. 260, §34, prior to the expiration of such period.
2. By virtue of an amendment to G.L.c. 260, §35 discussed below, these provisions also apply to mortgages on registered land.
3. By virtue of this amendment, G.L.c. 260, §33 also now provides that, upon the expiration of the relevant period provided therein,
a. the mortgage shall be considered discharged for all purposes without the necessity of further action by the owner of the equity of redemption or any other persons having an interest in the mortgaged property and,
b. in the case of registered land, upon the payment of the fee for the recording of a discharge, the mortgage shall be marked as discharged on the relevant memorandum of encumbrances in the same manner as for any other mortgage duly discharged.
4. Note that, under Section 8 of St. 2006, Ch. 63, discussed below, the reduced statute of limitations is deferred for 1 year from the effective date of the statute (October 1, 2006) to provide an opportunity for any mortgagee of a former 50-year mortgage that will now expire under the new limitations periods to file their extensions, affidavits or enforcement proceedings during the 1-year deferral period, which ends October 1, 2007.
I. SECTION 7 – Amending G.L.c. 260, §35 – Effect of Recording Extension of Mortgage on Multiple Parcels, Etc.
1. The only significant change here was to eliminate the language that made the provisions of G.L.c. 260, §§33, 34 and 35 inapplicable to registered land.
J. SECTION 8 – Applicability to All Mortgages (Retroactive Effect); Exception
1. All provisions of the Act (Sections 1 to 7) apply to all mortgages, whether recorded before, on or after the effective date of the Act with one exception.
2. EXCEPTION – 1-Year Delay Period for New 35/5 Statute of Limitations:
a. As to existing 50-year mortgages which, as a result of Sections “5 and 6” [sic – see Note below] would expire under the new 35-years or 5-years from due date Statute of Limitations within 1 year from the effective date of the Act, the effective date as to those mortgages is extended for 1 year to October 1, 2007, to avoid constitutional issues.
b. NOTE – Technical Amendment Necessary: The reference to Sections “5 and 6” is intended to refer to the sections of the of the Bill dealing with the New Statute of Limitations and should have referred to Sections 6 and 7, or more appropriately, just to Section 6, but with the insertion of a new Sections 4A and 4B by Amendment, somehow the sections affected by the 1-year delay were misdesignated. This should only require a technical amendment to fix.
K. SECTION 9 – Effective Dates
1. As to Sections 4A and 4B (repealing certain provisions of c. 184, §§17B-17D relating to consumer loan disclosures duplicative of corresponding Federal requirements), the effective date is July 1, 2006.
2. As to all other sections, with the caveat regarding the 1-year delay for existing 50-year mortgages contained in Section 8, are effective as of October 1, 2006.