Here are ten items of significance to the registry of deeds that occurred in 2014:
The total number of documents recorded in 2014 dropped 20% compared to the number recorded in 2013. The main cause was the virtual disappearance of the mortgage refinancing market; 13,272 mortgages were recorded in 2013 but only 9,161 were recorded in 2014.
The number of foreclosures remained stable with 155 foreclosure deeds recorded in 2014 compared to 150 recorded in 2013. The same was true for orders of notice with 346 recorded in 2014 versus 333 in 2013. Unfortunately, the volume in both years is still high relative to a stable or improving real estate market. Contributing factors include a large number of homeowners who are still underwater on their existing mortgages and consistently low interest rates which led anyone who would benefit from refinancing to have already done so in a prior year.
This year we received official word that the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds will be a tenant in the new Lowell Judicial Center which is scheduled to open in 2018. The prior plan was to exclude the registry from the new facility and have it remain in the current location or to occupy leased space elsewhere.
As of the end of 2014, twenty of the twenty-one registries of deeds in Massachusetts offer electronic recording. Having near universal acceptance of this technology by registries should lead to a greater volume of recordings to be done using this technology.
Senate bill 1987, “An Act Clearing Titles to Foreclosed Properties,” a measure that would set time limits on asserting Ibanez-type title defects in foreclosed properties, nearly made it into law. It did pass both houses of the legislature in the closing days of the session, however, Governor Patrick did not sign the bill but sent it back with suggested amendments. Because the formal legislative session had ended by then, no further action was taken and it is unclear whether this or a similar bill will be addressed in 2015.
In Haskins v Deutsche Bank, the Appeals Court held that the notice of the right to cure a default that MGL c.244, s35A requires to be sent by the mortgagee to the mortgagor prior to foreclosing, met the requirements of the statute when it was sent by the servicer of the loan rather than the record title holder of the mortgage.
In April, Middlesex North began a pilot program with the town of Wilmington by sending deeds recorded for the month for the town to the assessor in PDF rather than TIFF form. We expect to expand this change to other towns in the district during 2015.
The early months of 2014 were plagued by frequent snowstorms that caused the courthouse and the registry to be closed early or for the entire day several times in January and February.
During 2014 we had several encounters with customers seeking to record questionable documents that appeared to be associated with the “redemption” or “sovereign citizens” movements.
At the Massachusetts Digital Government Summit held in early December, top technology officials for the Commonwealth and the city of Boston made predictions of the direction that government technology should and will take during the coming years. Generally speaking, this and other registries of deeds are on the right track.