Inquiry Notice Principle

The principle of inquiry notice is a venerable one in Vermont. The courts of equity are vigilant . . . to see that a purchaser shall not be allowed to take any benefit resulting from any want of care and watchfulness. If there exist any circumstance of suspicion, whereby he might be said to be fairly put upon his guard, and he neglects to follow out the inquiry, he is affected with notice of all facts, which such inquiry would have brought to his knowledge, and if he purchases with his eyes shut, he acquires only the title of his grantor impeded with its attendant equity. Hart v. Farmers & Mechanics Bank, 33 Vt. 252, 264-65 (1860). This principle has been continually reaffirmed in Vermont and elsewhere. See, e.g., Tomasi v. Kelley, 100 Vt. 318, 323, 137 A. 196, 198-99 (1927) ("The circumstances being such as then to put defendant upon inquiry, he is chargeable with notice of all such facts as his inquiry, had it been made, would have revealed."); In re Ryan, 851 F.2d 502, 507 (1st Cir. 1988) ("Inquiry notice follows from the duty of a purchaser, when he has actual or constructive knowledge of facts which would lead a prudent person to suspect that another person might have an interest in the property, to conduct a further investigation into the facts."); Methonen v. Stone, 941 P.2d 1248, 1252 (Alaska 1997) ("It is well established that a purchaser will be charged with notice of an interest adverse to his title when he is aware of facts which would lead a reasonably prudent person to a course of investigation which, properly executed, would lead to knowledge of the servitude."); Hall v. Allen, 771 S.W.2d 50, 53 (Mo. 1989) (en banc) (purchaser of real estate is charged with notice of easement where existence of servitude is apparent upon ordinary inspection of premises).