Often, when purchasing or selling real estate in Pennsylvania, an examination of the title to such real estate discloses the presence of old mortgages or judgments (frequently in the name of a previous owner(s)). Although such old liens have most likely long been paid off in full, if the appropriate satisfaction documentation is not recorded with the county recorder of deeds or filed with the county prothonotary, such liens can remain of record long after the mortgagor/judgment debtor has sold the real estate, creating clouds on title for years to come. Adding to the difficulty of dealing with such liens is that frequently the holders of the old mortgages or judgments are defunct or cannot be found, thereby lessening the possibility that they will voluntarily remove their liens when asked to do so by a subsequent owner. Also, due to the passage of time, and even if the old “lienors” can be located, it may be difficult for a subsequent owner to obtain evidence of payoff of the old lien(s) to provide, so that the lienors will be convinced to satisfy their liens. Pennsylvania recognizes a presumption of payment of a mortgage twenty years after the final payment was due, but this presumption cannot be automatically relied on to assume an old mortgage is no longer a title cloud…the presumption may be rebutted with contrary evidence.
A quiet title action filed against the holder(s) of an old mortgage or judgment may be the only recourse a subsequent owner has to clear up these clouds on his/her title. At Stark & Stark, we have the experience and knowledge required to file and prosecute such actions, and obtain and record the requisite court order(s) that result in the satisfaction of such old mortgages or judgments.