Tracking down deeds to my home after mortgage is paid off

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

Bank of Ireland says it  will keep property deeds safely once a mortgage has been repaid until the deeds are requested by the customer. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Bank of Ireland says it will keep property deeds safely once a mortgage has been repaid until the deeds are requested by the customer. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

I realised recently that, although my mortgage was paid off a number of years ago, I still had not received the title deeds for my house. I wrote a letter to the branch of Bank of Ireland where I took out the loan but heard nothing back. I wrote again, this time by registered post, but still have heard nothing. I have banked at this branch for years and have always found the staff to be very helpful. I’m not really sure what to do now. Can you advise me?

Ms CH, Dublin

You are hardly the only person who pays off their mortgage and happily relaxes in the home you now fully own without ever thinking about the paperwork. However, it is important that you keep track of your title deeds as these prove your legal ownership to the property.

And while they can be reproduced, this is not a simple process by any means, or inexpensive.

Lenders habitually retain your deeds for the period of the mortgage as this is effectively the security they hold for your loan. But, once the loan is paid, they have no further lien over them.

In the old days, when banks offered a secure storage option, it was not unusual for banks to hold the documents for the customer, but that position has changed in recent years.

In any case, it was always standard practice for banks to alert the customer when their mortgage was paid off and to remind them to contact the bank to make arrangements for the future storage of title deeds.

To be fair, I have no information that Bank of Ireland did not do this when your mortgage was paid off a few years ago.

Also, in relation to the unanswered letters, you do concede that they were not addressed to any person, or position – such as manager – but just to the branch so, while it is a little surprising that they were not passed to the bank’s central mortgage lending unit, it is not entirely unexpected.

So what to do now?

The bank tells me you need to contact their customer relationship unit by calling 01-6113333. That unit has a team that specifically looks after these sort of queries, I’m told.

They will direct you in one of two directions – either that you should contact the bank’s central deeds department or the branch. Which path they send you on will depend on where the deeds are held, and the customer service unit will know that, I’m assured.

Once you’ve tracked down the deeds, the next question is what to do with them. As I said, these are important documents and not to be left casually lying around.

In recent years, banks have stopped providing a safekeeping option for documents, and Bank of Ireland has confirmed to me that this is the case for them too.

However, they reassured me that, as standard practice, they will keep property deeds safely once a mortgage has been repaid until the deeds are requested by the customer – and this service is free, which is a nice touch.

Still, for your own peace of mind, it is important to retrieve your deeds and arrange for their safekeeping – with your lawyer or something similar. As a general rule, people are advised not to keep important legal documents like this lying around the home, although that is clearly a matter for yourself.

Send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or by email to dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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