Is Massachusetts a “Race” or “Notice” State with Respect to Deed Recording?
I was curious as to whether Massachusetts was a notice, race-notice, or race jurisdiction concerning recording statutes, and I found an article that stated that Massachusetts was a race-notice jurisdiction. However, the plain language of the statute, M.G.L. ch. 183, sec. 4, cited in this article appears to indicate that Massachusetts would merely be a notice jurisdiction: ” ‘A conveyance of an estate…shall not be valid as against any person, except…persons having actual notice of it, unless it…is recorded in the registry of deeds for the county or district in which the land to it relates lies.’ ” Is this article correct in its assertion that Massachusetts is a race-notice jurisdiction?
The article you cite is correct that Massachusetts is a “race-notice” state with respect to the enforceability of deeds. The law says that valid deeds are enforceable against anyone who knows about them. That’s the “notice” part of the statute. Once recorded, they’re enforceable under all circumstances, whether the parties know about them or not. That’s “race” part.
For instance, let’s say you deeded your home to your son in one deed and to your daughter in another and told neither of them about the other and gave each their original deed. If your son recorded his deed at the registry of deeds first, he would own your house and your daughter would have nothing. If your daughter recorded hers first, the opposite result would obtain. Thus, even though they wouldn’t know it, they would be in a race to the registry of deeds.
That may be why its confusing, since they would be in a race that they would not be aware of. If they each were aware of the other’s deed, then they would have notice and the first deed you signed would govern, at least between your son and daughter.
The other part that might be confusing is that the terms “race” and “notice” are simply ways to describe how this works; they are not legal terms that you will find in the statute.