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House Calls

Q: My husband and I are close to paying off a vacation property that we purchased 15 years ago with a private mortgage. Our names are already on the deed, and we have been paying the taxes since we took possession. I have contacted the former owner to verify the last payment date. Do we need to do anything else once this property is paid off?

— A.W.

A: Congratulations on reaching the end of the mortgage. The public records of the county where your vacation home is located currently show that mortgage as a lien, a financial claim, against your property. To clear the record and show the debt has been discharged, a certificate of satisfaction signed by the lender (in some states, a deed of reconveyance) must also be filed.

If you had borrowed from a bank or other institution, they routinely take care of the filing. Or they send the document directly to you, so you could take it in and record it yourself.

Though when a private mortgage is involved, it’s possible your lender is not aware of the procedure.

When there’s any concern about obtaining this important paper (lender hard to contact, for example), one solution would be for your own attorney to prepare the form and hold your final payment.

Your lawyer could then write to the lender and explain that the payment would be forwarded only after the proper discharge has been returned ready for filing — properly executed and acknowledged.

Edith Lank will respond personally to any questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, NY 14620 (please include a stamped return envelope), or readers may e-mail her at edithlank@aol.com.

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