Buyer in good faith if not told of any flaw that voids his purchase of titled lot

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
In case a titled lot was sold to two different persons, between the two buyers, who has the right over the property? Should it be the first buyer who first bought the property?
Shermae

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Dear Shermae,
Your question basically involves a double sale of an immovable property. The provision of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, particularly Article 1544 thereof, squarely answers the same, to wit:

“Art. 1544. If the same thing should have been sold to different vendees, the ownership shall be transferred to the person who may have first taken possession thereof in good faith, if it should be movable property.

Should it be immovable property, the ownership shall belong to the person acquiring it who in good faith first recorded it in the Registry of Property.

Should there be no inscription, the ownership shall pertain to the person who in good faith was first in the possession; and, in the absence thereof, to the person who presents the oldest title, provided there is good faith.”

It is clear from the above provision of law that in case of double sale of an immovable property, such as the titled land being mentioned in your question, the buyer who acquired it in good faith and registered the same, also in good faith, with the Register of Deeds of the place where the property is situated shall be considered the owner thereof. On the other hand, if no registration was made, the ownership shall belong to the buyer who in good faith was first in the possession of the property. Lastly, in default of the two foregoing situations, the buyer in good faith who can present the oldest title shall be considered the owner.

In all the instances mentioned above, there must be a concomitant good faith on the part of the buyer for him/her to be declared as the owner of the property that was sold to two or more persons. In the case of Florentino, Troadio and Pedro, all surnamed Ochoa vs. Mauro Apeta (G.R. No. 146259, September 13, 2007), the Supreme Court had the occasion to expound the concept of good faith in this wise:

“Good faith is an intangible and abstract quality with no technical meaning or statutory definition, and it encompasses, among other things, an honest belief, the absence of malice and the absence of design to defraud or to seek an unconscionable advantage. It implies honesty of intention, and freedom from knowledge of circumstances, which ought to put the holder upon inquiry. The essence of good faith lies in an honest belief in the validity of one’s right, ignorance of a superior claim and absence of intention to overreach another. Applied to possession, one is considered in good faith if he is not aware that there exists in his title or mode of acquisition any flaw which invalidates it.”

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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