Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 55.1. Property and Conveyances
Chapter 3. Form and Effect of Deeds and Covenants; Liens

§ 55.1-344. Releases made by court; costs and attorney fees.

A. Any person who owns or has any interest in real estate or personal property on which an encumbrance as described in § 55.1-339 exists may, after 20 days' notice to the person entitled to such encumbrance, apply to the circuit court of the county or city in which such encumbrance is recorded to have the same released or discharged. Upon proof that the encumbrance has been paid or discharged or upon a finding by the court that more than 15 years have elapsed since the maturity of the lien or encumbrance, raising a presumption of payment that is not rebutted at the hearing, such court shall order the clerk to record a certificate of satisfaction or a certificate of partial satisfaction that, when so recorded, shall operate as a release of such encumbrance.

All releases made prior to June 24, 1944, by any court under this section upon such presumption of payment so arising and not rebutted shall be validated.

B. If the court finds that the person entitled to such encumbrance cannot with due diligence be located, and that notice has been given such person in the manner provided by § 8.01-319 or 55.1-348, or that tender has been made of the sum due thereon but has been refused for any reason by the party to whom due, the court may in its discretion order the sum due to be paid into court, to be there held as provided by law, and to be paid upon demand to the person entitled thereto. The court shall order the same to be recorded as provided in subsection A, and such certificate of satisfaction or certificate of partial satisfaction shall operate as a release of the encumbrance.

C. Upon a finding by the court that the holder of a mortgage or deed of trust that has been fully paid or discharged has unjustifiably and without good cause failed or refused to release such mortgage or deed of trust, the court may order that costs and reasonable attorney fees be paid to the petitioning party. This subsection shall not preclude a separate action by the petitioning party for actual damages sustained by reason of such failure or refusal to release the encumbrance.

Code 1919, § 6456; 1926, p. 81; 1930, p. 70; 1932, p. 121; 1944, p. 199; Code 1950, § 55-66.5; 1956, c. 426; 1975, c. 469; 1987, c. 604; 1992, c. 532; 1999, c. 66; 2006, c. 907; 2019, c. 712.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.