Recorded land and registered land in MA. Recorded land is the most common type of ownership in Massachusetts. Documents affecting real estate, such as deeds and mortgages, if properly prepared and legally acceptable, are recorded at the Registry of Deeds in chronological order and assigned a book and page number. They are then indexed by grantor, grantee, document type and address. The documents affecting a particular piece of property are searched, analyzed and examined by a party seeking to determine the legal status of the ownership rights in the property. This status is referred to as the title to the property. In Massachusetts, the title search is usually done by a trained examiner or attorney hired by the buyer or buyer’s lender. Registered land comprises about twenty percent ofrecorded land and registered land in MA

the property in Massachusetts. Under this system (sometimes referred to as the “Torrens” system) the Massachusetts Land Court has adjudicated and decreed the status of the title. Thereafter, subsequent owners of registered land are issued numbered certificates describing the property and noting any encumbrances (such as mortgages) or rights affecting the property. Documents filed in the registered section are assigned document numbers, not book and page numbers. The criteria for filing documents affecting registered land are much stricter than those affecting recorded land.

Registered Land

The Department of Land Registration is a separate unit from the recorded section of the Registry of Deeds. This unit is an adjunct of the Land Court that has a main office in Boston. The Land Court is a Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court, which has control over ownership of real property that has been disputed. After the Land Court renders its decision as to the ownership and boundary lines of real property, the ownership of that parcel can never again be disputed or doubted by any person. The Registered Land section currently retains all documents that are registered, including the original deed. A parcel of land can be registered with the Land Court even if there is no dispute but the cost for the official title search, survey of the locus, etc., are substantial and time consuming.

Massachusetts Registered Land documents will refer to a document number and certificate number while Recorded Land is identified by a book and page.

Recorded land versus registered land in MA

New homebuyers should understand the differences between recorded land and registered land in MA prior to purchasing a home. Acquiring first time buyer knowledge and tips can help greatly in the buying process.

Recorded Land

Dealings with Recorded Land are based on the buyer beware concept. Registry personnel will accept or reject a document for recording on the basis of whether it meets minimum recording requirements. Not whether the document properly relates to a particular property. For example, a deed from John Doe to Jane Doe for Squibnocket Beach would be accepted for recording if John Doe’s signature was notarized and if the deed meets minimum recording requirements. If John Doe does not own Squibnocket Beach, it is not the registry’s responsibility to inform Jane Doe of this fact. This is where the buyer beware concept becomes obvious. It is Jane Doe’s responsibility to check the property history to determine who the legal owner is and from whom she would get a deed if she were to buy the property. The recording of a deed in the Recorded Land section of the Registry does not guarantee that the real estate is free from all liens, encumbrances, and other legal issues that could cloud the ownership. A title search conducted by a qualified attorney or title examiner will determine the status of a Recorded Land title or property.


In Massachusetts, Recorded Land is the most common form of land recording. When dealing with Recorded Land, there will be a reference to a book and page number in the document description or a reference to a Case File number.

Registered Land

Land that has gone through a Land Court Registration and Decree process is called Registered Land. This is a more complex form of land ownership. The “Land Court” or “Registry District” is separate from the regular (recorded land) section of the Registry of Deeds. Registered Land is an adjunct of the Land Court and has a main office located in Boston. As a department of the Trial Court, the Land Court has exclusive jurisdiction over Registered Land.
Generally, Registered Land is land which, at some point in time, had been the subject of an ownership or boundary dispute. Once the Land Court renders a decision as to the ownership or boundary lines of real property, those issues cannot be disputed again as they relate to that property. Subsequent documents affecting the property in question have to be registered with the appropriate registry district.

For more information about recorded land and registered land in MA contact Brooks and Crowley in Dedham MA