The Recording Acts are state statutes that establish the keeping of official county records to track public land ownership. The Acts help settle conflicts of ownership in real property by prioritizing documents of ownership. However, the order of priority depends on the type of statute that the state has adopted: race, notice, or race-notice.
Also known as the "Race to the courthouse." The rule that the document recorded first wins and will have priority over any later recordings.
- States that follow the Race statute:
Delaware, Louisiana, and North Carolina.
- States that follow the Notice statute: 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.
A later buyer who pays fair value, does not have notice of any other earlier conflicting interests, and records first, wins and will have priority over any later recordings.
States that follow the Race-Notice statute: 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, PN follows Race), South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The purpose of the Recording Acts is to protect people who have acted in good faith and paid value for property. (The concept of "good faith" entitles one to act promptly and reasonably and is usually implied in every contract). The Acts do not create a criminal penalty for not recording, just a strong incentive to record documents for public record. By recording a document, you’re giving the general public constructive notice of your ownership rights. Until a document is recorded properly, title to property could be at risk from later good-faith purchasers.
The Recording Acts are difficult to understand and may not protect a purchaser from all pitfalls. The best way to protect your interest is to contact a property lawyer in your area who can provide more guarantees, review title insurance and advise you of the various ways you can protect your interest.