The Voice • June 2016


A large amount of feedback and interest was given over the “Race to the Courthouse” presentation at the recent Educational Symposium. We thought it would be beneficial to send this updated Fidlar Voice that was originally created in 2011.

The “Race to the Courthouse” is one of many factors you take into account as you determine policies and procedures within your office. We know you’re aware of how your state deals with the issue but we thought you might be interested in hearing about how some other states handle it. In our research we found three variations: the race statute, the notice statute, and the race/notice statute.
In a race statute, the first person to record is the rightful owner. If Ernest claims to sell a piece of land to Dave and then later claims to sell the same land to Scott, whoever gets their deed recorded first is the rightful owner. It doesn’t matter if Scott knows about the previous transaction with Dave or not, if he records his document first he is the owner. [1]

In a notice statute, the second buyer is the owner only if he does not know about the previous purchase. For example, if Ernest claims to sell a piece of land to Dave and then later claims to sell the same land to Scott and Scott does not know of the previous sale then Scott is considered the owner. If Dave has recorded his document before Scott purchased the land then this is considered enough notice for Scott to know the land had been bought. However, if Dave waited until after Scott bought the land to record his document then Scott would still be considered the owner as soon as he recorded his document. Even if Dave recorded his first Scott would still take ownership. [2]

The last statute is known as a race/notice statute. In this statute a second buyer can only be considered the owner if he does not have any knowledge of a previous transaction and records his document before the previous purchaser. If Ernest sells a piece of land to Dave and then later claims to sell a piece of land to Scott, Scott can only be considered the owner if he has no knowledge of the sale to Dave and he beats Dave to get his document recorded. [3]

1. Currently used by: Delaware, Louisiana, and North Carolina.
2. Currently used by: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.
3. Currently used by: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio (regarding mortgages, OH follows the Race statute), Oregon, Pennsylvania (regarding mortgages, PA follows Race), South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.