I bought a parcel of land in the province a couple of years ago. Due to lack of time and money, I was not able to transfer the title of the property in my name. Last month, I finally went to the Register of Deeds to process the transfer of title in my name, only to be informed that another person had already transferred the title in his name. After investigating, I found out that the same seller also sold the property to a new “owner” a year after I bought it. May I know if I have a right to the property even though the second buyer has already transferred the title in his name?
It appears to us that your case involves a “double sale.” A double sale occurs when the same vendor sells the same property to two or more different vendees with different interests. Such a situation is governed by Article 1544 of the Civil Code, which states:
“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.”
Based on the law, the order of priority in right is as follows: (1) first person to register the sale in good faith; (2) the first possessor in good faith; and (3) the buyer who in good faith presents the oldest title. Thus, registration of title takes precedence over possession of property and older title.
However, please note that the law requires that the registration must be made in good faith. For the second buyer this is important as the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that “mere registration of title is not enough; good faith must concur with the registration” (Sps. Abrigo vs. De Vera,G.R. No. 154409, June 21, 2004, Ponente: Honorable former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban).This means that the second buyer must not
have knowledge of the first sale or the first buyer’s rights at the time he transferred the title in his name.
“Knowledge gained by the second buyer of the first sale defeats his rights even if he is first to register the second sale, since such knowledge taints his prior registration with bad faith.”(Id.)
Applying the foregoing to your case, though the second buyer has already secured a title in his name, you may still question his title if you can show that he is aware of your right as prior buyer at the time of registration of his title. In such a case, his knowledge of your right taints his prior registration with bad faith; thus, defeating his right as first registrant.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.