Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

January 18, 2007

Formatting Standards Revisited

by @ 10:58 am. Filed under Indexing

Since the first of the year, I have received many phone calls from around the country from companies that prepare real estate documents inquiring about the status of the Document Formatting Standards that were to become effective on January 1, 2007. As regular readers of this blog know, the implementation date of those standards was pushed back for a full year to January 1, 2008 to allow the Registers of Deeds Association to meet with the various constituencies effected by these rules to devise a more acceptable solution to our problem. And that problem is that a significant portion of documents now being recorded are difficult for us to reproduce as the official and lasting record of the transaction. Yesterday I met with the Registry of Deeds subcommittee of the Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts (REBA). The size of the document’s margins was perhaps the biggest stumbling point of the original formatting standards (and those were a 3-inch top margin and 1-inch side and bottom margins). After much discussion, it is apparent that a box in the upper right hand corner of a document that is at least 3-inches square is needed to allow the registry to affix recording data to the document and that a general admonition to “provide sufficient space for recording information” would be insufficient. But what about non-conforming documents, especially those crucial to a transaction that have come from a distant location? Should the person seeking to record such a document simply tape a blank sheet of paper to the back with a 3-inch overlap at the top to provide sufficient space? I think a better solution would be for the registry to provide a generic coversheet that could be downloaded from the internet or filled in at the registry just before recording. This coversheet would require the customer to insert some information about the document being recorded and would have ample space for the registry to affix its recording data. There is precedent for this. Every document that is recorded electronically has a coversheet added to it that contains recording information. As for the side and bottom margins, a full one-inch is probably not necessary. What the registry needs is sufficient white space between the edge of the document and the beginning (or ending) of the text to ensure that none of the text is cut off during the scanning process. Other items discussed included the rule that signatures be made only in black or dark blue ink, the prohibition against watermarks on papers being recorded and the desire for a clear statement that hand written documents are recordable. In the coming months I will be meeting with representatives of other groups which do business with the registries to solicit their input on the next version of the formatting standards.

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