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What is a Bona Fide Purchaser?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A bona fide purchaser or BFP is someone who purchases something in good faith, believing that he or she has clear rights of ownership after the purchase and having no reason to think otherwise. In situations where a seller behaves fraudulently, the bona fide purchaser is not held responsible. Someone with a conflicting claim to the property under discussion would need to take it up with the seller, not the purchaser, and the purchaser would be allowed to retain the property.

In order to be considered a bona fide purchaser, someone needs to actually pay for the property in question; she or he cannot be the beneficiary of a gift or legacy. Furthermore, the BFP cannot have received notice of a conflicting claim or been reasonably expected to be aware of a problem with the title to the property. The bona fide purchaser is, in other words, innocent, even if the transaction was fraudulent in nature.

If the real owner of the property or someone with a conflicting claim of another nature surfaces after the transaction is complete and the bona fide purchaser can demonstrate that she or he was unaware of the situation, he or she is allowed to retain the title to the property. The person with the conflicting claim must claim damages from the seller in a civil suit in court, and there may be cases in which sellers can face criminal fraud penalties as well.

Although the bona fide purchase is allowed to retain the title, there are situations in which people who purchase property in such transactions offer to sell it back to the original owner. The original owner can buy the property back and file suit against the fraudulent seller to recover the funds used for the purchase. However, people cannot be compelled to sell such property and there may be cases in which someone with a conflicting claim will have to accept a settlement payment from the seller with no change of recovering the property itself.

There may be cases in which someone claims to be a bona fide purchaser, but in fact was aware of problems with the transaction and chose to proceed anyway. If this can be proved in court, the purchaser will forfeit the property to the rightful owner and cannot receive compensation for the funds paid at the time of purchase because he or she participated in the fraudulent transaction, rather than being an innocent victim.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By burcidi — On Mar 27, 2012

@fify-- Yep, it's the same thing. "Bona fide purchaser for value" or "bona fide purchaser for value without notice" is the full term. It's referred to as bona fide purchaser or BFP in short.

"For value" means that a sale and purchase was made in exchange of value- usually money or anything else that's is considered to be of value to the court. So it can't be exchanged for free.

"Without notice" means that the purchaser made the purchase in good faith. That he or she was unaware of any illegalities involved.

By fify — On Mar 26, 2012

This is one of the concepts my professor is going to test us on this week. Thanks for this article, it's a good review for me.

If I understood it right, a bona fide purchaser needs to be able to prove that he had no knowledge of fraudulent activity in the selling process right? So if the BFP cannot prove that he purchased "in good faith," he can be charged with fraudulence.

This seems like it could be challenging to prove in court. Someone could easily claim that they had no knowledge that the seller wasn't the actual owner of property even if he was. But for the majority of time, I don't think anyone would be willing to take that risk if they were aware that something is not right. So it's good that the law is protecting of BFP's rights.

I have another question, I've also seen the legal term "bona fide purchaser for value" being used. Is this the same thing as bona fide purchaser?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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