Thursday, February 28, 2013

Electronic recording and registered land

We've allowed the electronic filing of documents at this registry since 2007. Last year, e-files accounted for 34% of all documents recorded. Now, thirteen of the twenty-one registries of deeds in the Commonwealth allow recording this way and more will be allowing it soon. However, electronic recording applies only to recorded land documents, not registered land documents. We have never asked for a determination by the Land Court on whether we may implement this technology. The reason for not asking is that we're quite certain the answer would be "no" based among other things on the fact that the Registered Land system not only requires us to see the original document being registered; it also requires us to retain custody of that document. That is not to say that electronic recording will never come to Registered Land but it is to say that making that happen is much more complicated than was the case with recorded land. Despite these complications, I am confident that when we do raise the issue with Land Court, the Court and the registries will cooperatively seek a solution assuming there is one. At most registries of deeds, Registered Land accounts for approximately 6% of all recordings but that percentage is much higher in some offices (in Barnstable, it is 27%, for example). In those registries in particular, the inability to use electronic recording for Registered Land acts as a deterrent to the use of the technology in all cases. The reason for this is that if an attorney has four mortgages to record with three being recorded land and one being registered, it would make little sense to record the three electronically and then drive to the registry to register the fourth. If you have to go to the registry anyway, you might as well conduct all of your business in that one stop. I don't foresee any quick solution to this issue, but I do anticipate raising it with Land Court in the coming months.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sovereign Citizens

This past Monday I traveled to Worcester for a meeting of the Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association. The meeting opened with a presentation by two Special Agents of the FBI on the Sovereign Citizens movement. One of the core beliefs of this movement is that government in America at all levels lacks legitimacy and that those who declare themselves Sovereign Citizens are not bound by the laws and regulations of federal, state and local governments. Most of the time, Sovereign Citizen activities fall into the "quirky behavior" category, but was we learned on Monday, it can also give rise to criminal activity, be it financial fraud or even violence against judicial or law enforcement officials. It seems that a method of establishing oneself as a "sovereign citizen" is to record a series of documents at the local registry of deeds. The act of recording the documents in their view ratifies and legitimizes their assertions so registries of deeds might have contact with this area. The FBI has more information about the Sovereign Citizens movement on its website.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Foreclosure calendar revisited

Until today, there hadn't been any new foreclosure notices since we first created our "Foreclosure Auction Calendar a week ago.  Two appeared today, however, so we updated the calendar and are experimenting with ways to display it permanently.  We'll try to embed it below.  Please let me know how it appears to you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More on Attorney General's HomeCorps mortgage assistance program

The Globe today has a story about Attorney General Martha Coakley's efforts to inform mortgage servicers about provisions of the Act to Prevent Unnecessary and Unlawful Foreclosures which was signed into law by Governor Patrick last August.  The law permits holders of first mortgages to modify those mortgages without regard to outstanding second mortgages but the Attorney General's office found that many loan servicers were unaware of that provision.  Coakley hopes that by better publicizing this authority, more loans will be modified.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Foreclosure auction calendar

A short time ago I wrote that we were looking for a method to collect and make public the dates of upcoming foreclosure auctions in the towns of our district.  Up until now, the only way to learn of those dates is by scanning the legal notices of the local newspaper each day.  The dates are not all aggregated in one place.  I decided to try a Google calendar which I have made public.  Each entry contains the address of the property being foreclosed plus the book and page number of the mortgage being foreclosed.  Everyone with an internet connection should be able to view the calendar.  Because we're only in the testing phase, I posted just four foreclosures scheduled for early March so when you go to the calendar using the link below, it defaults to February and there's nothing posted there yet.  Just flip to March and you should see the four foreclosures.  We will add new foreclosures on an on-going basis and will try to fill in others in the coming days if we're able to find back issues of the appropriate newspapers.

Here's the link our new foreclosure calendar.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Attorney General's HomeCorps

Yesterday I attended an event on the foreclosure crisis hosted by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy at Lowell City Hall.  Representatives from numerous housing, legal aid and social service agencies from the region joined in the round table discussion.  The primary topic was foreclosure prevention measures and how they can be made more effective.  There was a surprising consistency in the comments made; foremost of them was the high level of stress experienced by people seeking mortgage modifications to stave off foreclosures.  This is not news to us here at the registry; we see it and hear it everyday from homeowners with mortgage difficulties.  One reason their distress is so pronounced, I believe, is that the mortgages being foreclosed now were mostly obtained prior to the collapse in 2007 so these people have been able to keep up with payments for a considerable length of time but some event such as divorce, illness or job loss - things stressful in their own right - has intervened and triggered the foreclosure process.

Other things discussed included the availability and power of the Attorney General's HomeCorps which is a section within her office charged with mitigating "future impacts of the foreclosure crisis by providing advocacy to distressed borrowers in Massachusetts facing foreclosure."  Besides directly assisting homeowners, the staff at HomeCorps can also intervene when a homeowner or someone representing a homeowner seems to be receiving unfair treatment from a mortgage servicer.
More information about HomeCorps is available on the Attorney General's website and the office Hot Line is 617/573-5333.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lowell law firm featured in Mass Lawyers Journal

Congratulations to Gallagher and Cavanaugh LLP for an excellent profile of the firm and its offices that appears in the most recent edition of Massachusetts Lawyers Journal.  "Bearers of the Light" plays on the prior history of the 22 Shattuck Street law office which was once the headquarters of the Lowell Gas Light Company. 

While we take artificial lighting in our homes and on our streets for granted, back in the mid-ninteenth century, it was a novel concept.  The gas that was used was manufactured from coal which was heated in large ovens at the Lowell gas works at School and Broadway.  The flamable gas given off by the coal was trapped and stored in the large cylindrical tanks that once sat in the vicinity of today's Stoklosa School.  The tangible residue of the super-heated coal was called coke which was sold as fuel for home furnaces and stoves.  The abundance of other waste products were dumped into the city sewer system until houses downstream started reeking of foul odors and sometimes exploding.  After that, the waste was simply dumped into the Western Canal. 

Eventually, electric light supplanted gas light entirely.  The Gas Light Company became simply the gas company, focused on heat and cooking and not illumination.  Post-gas company occupancy, the Shattuck Street building served as a law office, then a medical office and now a law office once again.

Please be sure to read the full article about Gallagher and Cavanaugh and the city of Lowell.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Town Statistics: 2012 v 2011 (Part III)

Here's the final installment of our town by town look at the amount of different document types recorded in 2012 and 2011.  Today it's Tyngsborough, Westford and Wilmington.


In 2012, there were 265 deeds recorded in Tyngsborough, a 13% increase from the 235 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 805 mortgages recorded, a 35% increase from the 596 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 17 foreclosure deeds, in 2011 there were 18.


In 2012, there were 575 deeds recorded in Westford, a 26% increase from the 455 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 2103 mortgages recorded, a 33% increase from the 1581 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 11 foreclosure deeds for Westford, a 42% drop from the 19 in 2011.


In 2012, there were 484 deeds recorded in Wilmington, a 16% increase from the 416 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 1546 mortgages, a 31% increase from the 1184 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 18 foreclosure deeds in Wilmington, in 2011 there were 19.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Final report on Blizzard of 2013

The courthouse has reopened after the storm and so has registry of deeds.  Everything closed Friday at noon.  The snow was falling at that points but it hadn't accumulated very much.  Governor Patrick issued an order banning driving during the duration of the storm.  That caused some online griping but no one got stranded on the roads by the storm and cleanup of the main roads and highways, at least, went more smoothly.  The side roads and intersections in Lowell are still in tough shape and the city's parking ban continues until 11am today but even after that parking will be difficult and driving will be made more difficult as cars parked alongside snowbanks squeeze the width of travel lanes.

The intensity of the storm increased greatly at about 4pm on Friday.  I live less than two miles from the courthouse and by 11pm Friday had 11 inches of snow.  Saturday at 8am it was still snowing heavily and there was 22 inches on the ground.  The snow stopped falling entirely by 10am and the sun began burning through the clouds for a few minutes but then clouds, wind and colder air arrived. 

The driving ban ended at 4pm on Saturday and the MBTA which had suspended service on Friday afternoon slowly crept back to life on Sunday afternoon with full service expected to be restored by this morning.

There was no school in Lowell today, partly because of the large amounts of snow that were left to be removed but also because of the forecast of freezing rain (which spared us during the morning commute but is falling right now at 1030am).  The courthouse maintenance staff did an excellent job clearing the walkways and sidewalks around the building.  Hopefully the weather will turn warm for a stretch and much of the newly fallen snow will quickly disappear.


Friday, February 08, 2013

Blizzard of 2013 status update

The Superior Courthouse and the Registry of Deeds will both close at noon today due to the approaching blizzard.  The recording counter will stop taking documents at 11:45 am.  The mail has already been delivered and should all get on record before the building closes.

Town Statistics: 2012 v 2011 (Part II)

We'll take a break from storm topics and get back to our town-by-town statistical report for 2012 vs 2011.  We've already covered Billerica, Carlisle and Chelmsford in an earlier post.  Today, it's Dracut, Dunstable and Tewksbury.


In 2012, there were 698 deeds recorded in Dracut, a 19% increase from the 585 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 1602 mortgages recorded in Dracut, a 41% increase from the 1137 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 50 foreclosure deeds in Dracut, there were 48 in 2011.


In 2012, there were 69 deeds recorded in Dunstable, a 21% increase from the 57 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 222 mortgages recorded in Dunstable, a 29% increase from the 172 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 2 foreclosure deeds for Dunstable; in 2011 there was 1.


In 2012, there were 733 deeds recorded in Tewksbury, a 34% increase from the 549 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 1838 mortgages for Tewksbury, a 40% increase from the 1317 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 22 foreclosure deeds in Tewksbury, a 48% decline from the 42 in 2011

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Breaking News: All Massachusetts Courts to close tomorrow at noon

We just got word from the Administrative Office of the Trial Court that all state courts will close tomorrow at noon.  As reasons for this, the Court states that the MBTA will cease operations at 1 pm (which is by itself a big story if correct).  Because the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is located within a courthouse, we must close when the courthouse closes.  We will open at our normal time - 8:30 am - so if you have anything to record, please come as early as possible.

Preparing for big snowstorm

We are already receiving calls asking if we will be open tomorrow.  The answer is "yes" but I'm not sure for how long.  That all depends on the timing of the storm.  Since we are located in a courthouse, the decision to close is sometimes made for us by the Trial Court.  The Security Department here told me earlier that all courts in Massachusetts will close at 3pm tomorrow.  I suspect the actual closing time will be earlier in the day.  If you have something that has to be recorded tomorrow, try to get here as early as possible.  If you plan on coming later than 11 am, you should first call us at 978/322-9000 to check our status.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Town Statistics: 2012 v 2011

I've compiled recording statistics for each town in the Middlesex North District comparing totals of various types of documents recorded in 2012 with those recorded in 2011.  Today we'll cover Billerica, Carlisle and Chelmsford.


In 2012, there were 746 deeds recorded in Billerica, a 27% increase from the 589 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 2112 mortgages recorded in Billerica, a 38% increase from the 1532 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 40 foreclosure deeds in Billerica, there was an equal number in 2011.


In 2012, there were 117 deeds recorded in Carlisle, a 14% increase from the 103 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 396 mortgages recorded in Carlisle, a 36% increase from the 291 in 2011;
In 2012, there was 1 foreclosure deed for Carlisle; in 2011 there were 2.


In 2012, there were 794 deeds recorded in Chelmsford, a 19% increase from the 668 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 2385 mortgages for Chelmsford, a 36% increase from the 1757 in 2011;
In 2012, there were 27 foreclosure deeds in Chelmsford, a 7% decline from the 29 in 2011.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII

When I started this blog way back in 2003, I intended it to be about real estate and registry matters, but when I look back through nine years of blog archives, I often find that "current events" provide some of our most interesting posts.  This is especially true for major sporting events (although that may have been because New England teams often played a prominent role).  Still, last night's Super Bowl XLVII turned out to be an exciting game with the Ravens holding off the 49ers, 34-31.  Baltimore pulled ahead to a big lead and seemed to have the game wrapped up when they returned the kickoff that opened the second half for a touchdown but then the lights in the stadium went out and the game was delayed for 35 minutes.  When play resumed, San Francisco had new life and stormed back.  With less than two minutes to play and down by 5 points, the 49ers had the ball at the Ravens 7 yard line but couldn't score a game winning touchdown despite having four plays.  Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was the MVP and neither the commercials nor the halftime show (which starred Beyonce) created much buzz at work the morning after.  So it was a game with an exciting finish which has been the case more often than not in the past decade or two.  Too bad the Patriots weren't in it but I heard somewhere that when they next lose a Super Bowl they will set the record for the franchise with the most Super Bowl defeats which I suppose is a pessimistic way of looking at it.  Pitchers and catchers report in seven days.

Friday, February 01, 2013

End of January stats

I find it hard to believe it's already February 1st but since it is, here are the numbers for major document types recorded this January compared to January 2012:

The number of deeds recorded rose 32% from 342 to 450.

The number of mortgages recorded rose 33% from 1039 to 1384.

The number of foreclosure deeds declined by 50%, falling from 38 to 19.

But, the number of orders of notice rose 61%, rising from 46 to 74.