Lance R. Pomerantz
Attorney at Law

Land     Title     Law

“Constructive Notice”  The  Newsletter

Excerpted from the September 26, 2017 mailing of "Constructive Notice":

Inquiry Notice for Registered Land

Many believe that land registration obviates the need for researching title prior to the rendering of the decree. A recent Massachusetts case illustrates how that approach can lead to difficulty. Baker v. Town of Plymouth, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1104 (Mass. App. Ct. Aug. 24, 2017).

In Baker, the 1911 decree provided that the "described land is subject to the rights of all persons lawfully entitled thereto over a lane or way in extension of Nelson Street to the sea." Nothing in the decree identified the persons (or properties) for whose benefit those “rights” were created or when the creation took place. Soon after the decree was entered, the land was subdivided into three lots, only one of which (now owned by the Town of Plymouth) had sea frontage. The common owner then sold all three lots. Baker is the present-day owner of one of the inland lots and sought to establish an easement to the sea. The common-owner’s deeds for the sea-front lot and the other inland lot (i.e. not Baker’s lot) each contain language subjecting them to the rights of others over an extension of Nelson Street.

Although the Court held the language of the decree was insufficient by itself to create either an express or implied easement, it also held that “the language in the original decree and the deeds of [the two two lots] would have prompted an examination of related registration records to determine whether [Baker’s lot] has an easement over [the other two lots]. Had the town examined the records pertaining to [Baker’s lot], it would have found sufficient indicia that [Baker’s lot] enjoys an easement over the northerly portion of [the other inland lot]” (emphasis supplied).

Unfortunately for Baker, the same pre-decree inquiry would have revealed insufficient evidence of an easement over the sea-front lot.


Only a handful of jurisdictions continue to have robust land registration (“Torrens”) systems, but even those which no longer actively register land can still confront questions of the interpretation of registration decrees rendered years (sometimes, decades) ago. Examiners and underwriters should be sensitive to vague or ambiguous language in Torrens decrees and certificates. Further inquiry may be called for