According to M.G.L. c. 183, Section 6A,
No instrument conveying unregistered land shall be accepted for recording unless
(a) the instrument indicates that the land conveyed is the same as described in or conveyed by prior recorded instruments identified sufficiently to locate the place of recording within the registry, or states that the instrument does not create any new boundaries,
(b) the instrument identifies the land conveyed either by reference to a plan or plans previously recorded in the same registry of deeds and identified sufficiently to locate the place of recording therein, or by reference to a plan or plans recorded with the conveyance. Failure to comply with this section shall not affect the validity of any instrument.
First, let me clarify what’s meant by “unregistered land.” Deeds are recorded in either the Registry of Deeds or the Land Court Registry. Deeds recorded in Land Court are considered “registered.” All other deeds (i.e., those recorded at the Registry of Deeds) are “unregistered.”
So the statute tells us that all deeds recorded at the Registry of Deeds must describe the land being conveyed in at least one of two ways.
First, the land can be described using a pre-existing deed description. This method is used for the vast majority of deeds–particularly in rural areas where much of the land has not been subdivided or frequently sold.
Using the first method, the party selling the property (the “grantor”) simply re-uses the description on the deed which conveyed the land to him. At the end of the description, the deed will contain a “being clause” which typically reads as follows:
Being the same premises conveyed to the grantors by deed dated _______________ and recorded in Hampden County Registry of Deeds Book _________, Page __________.
The second method allows the grantor to describe the landing being conveying by referring to a recorded plan of the property. This method is common in well-developed areas though it is becoming more prevalent in rural areas as more and more property is being sold and subdivided.
It should be noted that a deed can, and often will, use both methods of describing a piece of land.
In addition to the statute, a real estate attorney or title examiner should be familiar with REBA Title Standard 27 entitled “Title References and Descriptions.” According to Standard 27,
In order to convey good title, a description of a parcel of land must be capable of referring to only one parcel. A description is not sufficient to convey title if the land is described as part of a tract without a specific description of its location within the tract.
Missing bounds, errors in direction or distance, and ambiguous descriptions are cured by reference to a specific lot on a recorded plan or by title reference to a deed containing an adequate description.