How do I know whether my deed to property is superior to other, conflicting deeds?

One of the most depressing things to experience as a property owner, is the realization that your rights to property are junior to a third party’s.

In a few recent cases involving condominium parking, parties were locked into a dispute regarding who had rights to particular parking spaces. To a casual observer, this may not see like a big deal, but to a condo-owner, parking spaces are vital to any future rental opportunities. (Who wants to live in an apartment where you have no parking space?)

When developers complete condo construction projects, they usually draft and record covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that govern the units overall. Contained within these document are usually tables that outline specific parking assignments. However, often times the developers also reserve the right to change those parking assignments to meet the specific needs or wants of prospective property owners. This allows for not only a degree of flexibility in establishing the parking, but it offers a way for the developer to sweeten the sale of a particular condo by offering specific (usually more convenient) parking spaces. Once those units are sold, however, and a valid statutory warranty deed is transferred to the buyer of the property, those parking spaces become part of the ownership of that particular condo. Therefore, any subsequent purchasers of the property cannot claim rights to those parking spaces, regardless of what is contained in the CC&Rs.

In general, the way that you determine whether your title has superiority to another is twofold. First, if your title was recorded before the other title was recorded, then you have priority. Second, the transfer of the property MUST be valid! In other words, even if you record your deed to the property, the property you receive must have been transferred to you from someone who has the actual ownership rights to do so.