All persons, firms, or corporations now owning or hereafter acquiring any deed or agreement for rights-of-way and easements of any character whatsoever shall record such deeds and agreements in the office of the register of deeds of the county where the land affected is situated. Where such deeds and agreements may have been acquired, but no use has been made thereof, the person, firm, or corporation holding such instrument, or any assignment thereof, shall not be required to record them until within 90 days after the beginning of the use of the easements granted thereby. If after 90 days from the beginning of the easement granted by such deeds and agreements the person, firm, or corporation holding such deeds or agreements has not recorded the same in the office of the register of deeds of the county where the land affected is situated, then the grantor in the said deed or agreement may, after 10 days' notice in writing served and returned by the sheriff or other officer of the county upon the said person, firm, or corporation holding such lease or agreement, file a copy of the said lease or agreement for registration in the office of the register of deeds of the county where the original should have been recorded, but such copy of the lease or agreement shall have attached thereto the written notice above referred to, showing the service and return of the sheriff or other officer. The registration of such copy shall have the same force and effect as the original would have had if recorded: Provided, said copy shall be duly probated before being registered.
Nothing in this section shall require the registration of the following classes of instruments or conveyances, to wit:
(1) It shall not apply to any deed or instrument executed prior to January 1, 1910.
(2) It shall not apply to any deed or instrument so defectively executed or witnessed that it cannot by law be admitted to probate or registration, provided that such deed or instrument was executed prior to the ratification of this section.
(3) It shall not apply to decrees of a competent court awarding condemnation or confirming reports of commissioners, when such decrees are on record in such courts.
(4) It shall not apply to local telephone companies, operating exclusively within the State, or to agreements about alleyways.
The failure of electric companies or power companies operating exclusively within this State or electric membership corporations, organized pursuant to Chapter 291 of the Public Laws of 1935 [G.S. 117-6 through 117-27], to record any deeds or agreements for rights-of-way acquired subsequent to 1935, shall not constitute any violation of any criminal law of the State of North Carolina.
No deed, agreement for right-of-way, or easement of any character shall be valid as against any creditor or purchaser for a valuable consideration but from the registration thereof within the county where the land affected thereby lies.
From and after July 1, 1959, the provisions of this section shall apply to require the Department of Transportation to record as herein provided any deeds of easement, or any other agreements granting or conveying an interest in land which are executed on or after July 1, 1959, in the same manner and to the same extent that individuals, firms or corporations are required to record such easements. (1917, c. 148; 1919, c. 107; C.S., s. 3316; 1943, c. 750; 1959, c. 1244; 1973, c. 507, s. 5; 1977, c. 464, s. 34.)