Congratulations! You’re the owner of a shiny, new piece of property; it’s a nice plot of land you plan to build on in the coming years. You paid for it, your name is on the deed, and it is all yours . . . Right? Not exactly. Somebody else could actually claim ownership of your land and be correct. The person says they have paid for it, and they too have a deed with their name on it to your property. What do you do?
Sometimes sellers will convey the same piece of land to multiple individuals, only to disappear and leave the innocent buyers to battle out in court who should be able to keep the land. Each state has a recording act that establishes the method for determining priority between these adverse claimants, i.e., when two individuals are asserting ownership of the same piece of property. These recording acts lay a foundation for resolving issues of ownership before they arise, usually by emphasizing the importance of recording the deed with the county register of deeds.
While most states emphasize recording in concordance with some other aspects, North Carolina law strictly dictates that the purchaser who records their deed first has priority ownership. Even subsequent purchasers have priority over a previously created deed if the later purchaser records the deed first—even if they actually know the property is somebody else’s. By recording a deed successfully, property owners can protect their title against others who might later claim the land as theirs.
The law aims to promote certainty and reduce transaction costs. By recording your deed with the county register, you are telling everyone, “Hey, this land is mine,” which is what the law refers to as putting all individuals “on notice” of your ownership. While unrecorded deeds are still enforceable as to the buyer and seller, they don’t give the rest of the world notice of the purchase. Therefore, the unrecorded deed runs the risk of being unenforceable should a later purchaser of the same property challenge your deed, especially if they’ve recorded their deed. This demonstrates the importance of making sure you record after a purchase of real property (land).
King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. If you have a current conflict with your title or your deed, contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.