Should I get the promissory note after paying off my mortgage? You may not need a note stamped “canceled” but you do need other forms of proof.

Q: I saved an article you wrote from 2015 which says that I should “get back the promissory note” I signed when I pay off my loan. And, that the lender should return it to me, stamped canceled.

But none of that happened when I paid off my loan. The release of the mortgage was recorded with my recorder of deeds and I have a copy of the release in hand. I went to the bank with your article and asked how to get the promissory note back. A very willing employee was willing to help me out and spoke to other people at the bank.

She was told by someone on the phone that I should contact the recorder of deeds. This seems to be a royal run-around by the bank. You wrote: “Different jurisdictions have different rules.” But seems to me the jurisdiction I am in should be irrelevant. The loan is paid off, the satisfaction of mortgage is recorded, why is getting the original promissory note, stamped canceled, and other documents so difficult? Thanks for any insights and or suggestions you can offer.

A: First, congratulations on paying off your mortgage. That’s a pretty significant moment in the life of any homeowner. And, thank you for reading our column and saving the article. (Here’s a more recent column that covers the same steps.)

We believe the lenders should give back the original note and mortgage from your loan and the documents should be stamped “canceled.” In the past, we’ve received those documents back from both regional lenders and the largest mortgage lenders. However, some lender just doesn’t do it — or don’t want to do it.

When you deal with a mega lender, it won’t help to go to a local branch to get the documents you might be entitled to receive. You have to call the number for loan customer service and talk to them. Once you have customer service on the phone, you need to talk to someone in the lien release department (or whatever they call a department that oversees releasing liens against real property). That department may have the ability to make sure the other documents, in addition to the release of the lien, are sent back to you.

Keep in mind that lenders have hundreds of thousands or even millions of loan files. Those files are either kept at a central location or might be in various locations around the country. For this reason, you need to talk to someone in the department that handles the paperwork once the loan is paid off in full.

Having said that understands that you’re already way ahead of the game. Your lender issued the release of lien and sent that document to the appropriate office that handles real estate records for filing or recording. You also should have a statement from the bank showing that you no longer have a balance on the loan. Finally, you can probably check out your credit report and find out that the report now shows that the account was paid in full and you owe nothing to that creditor.

In this electronic age, that information may be as important or more important than having the canceled note and mortgage.

It seems to us that we’re approaching a point where lenders will end up handling closings electronically and the old way of handling loan documentation may be just that: an old way of doing things. Yes, you’d be better off having the canceled note and mortgage, but in reality you’ve received the lien release and you likely have the last statement from the bank showing a zero balance. If the bank still tried to collect money from you, or sent a collection agency after you, they’d have trouble proving their case given the documentation you now possess.

While it’s not as satisfying a having a note stamped “canceled,” we hope this information helps. If you want to pursue it further, try contacting the toll-free number of the bank (look on one of the statements you’ve received) and hope they can find the documents and send them to you. Our feeling is that they probably have lost the documents, can’t find them or are unable (for some other reason) to get them back to you.

Related Reading

Promissory Note Advice

What Mortgage Can I Get Approved For?

How Do I Pay My First Mortgage Payment?