Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Alabama
Finding out that property lines are improperly drawn and learning that you have been partially occupying your neighbor's land, or vice versa, can create some fairly serious legal issues.
Ideally, the neighbors could just ignore the situation, and go on as they had before, effectively agreeing to change the property lines to reflect their past use. This doesn't always happen, however. Additionally, such a course of action is not free of issues, and could eventually result in ownership of the land legally changing to reflect the past use, even if one of the neighbors opposes this.
It's more frequently the case that one neighbor wants to maintain the current use of the land, property lines notwithstanding, while the other neighbor wants to enforce the property lines that are on record. This is because moving a property line necessarily expands the land of one neighbor, while shrinking the land of another. Obviously, the neighbor whose land would be shrunk will probably oppose any attempt to enforce the property lines.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. There are also title disputes. These disagreements arise when it isn't clear who owns an entire parcel of land. There are many reasons why such confusion might arise, but a common one is failure to properly record a deed, or subsequent loss of a deed by the recording office. While typically innocent in origin, these disputes can also be the product of fraud. Sometimes, a landowner will sell his land to more than one person, with each buyer assuming that they are the only buyer. Having "sold" his land multiple times, the fraudster presumably flees the jurisdiction with his ill-gotten gains. This leaves the buyers to figure out who truly owns the land that each of them thought they had just bought. Obviously, whoever loses this dispute will typically have to absorb the loss of the land's purchase price, if the fraudulent seller cannot be found.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Vestavia Hills, Alabama
One possible outcome of a boundary dispute is a court effectively re-drawing the boundaries to fit what the neighbors had perceived. This is most frequently done if the neighbors were aware for a long time of the "real" property lines, and didn't do anything about it. It also helps if the neighbor who is encroaching makes major improvements to the land, and enforcing the new property lines would place a major burden on him.
On the other hand, a court could decide to take the opposite approach, and order the neighbors to abide by the legal property lines. When deciding which course of action to take, courts consider many factors, but most of them boil down to common-sense principles of fairness. For example, if the owner of the land who was encroaching onto his neighbor's land knew of the encroachment, and hid this fact from the other neighbor (hoping to continue to use more land than he paid for), that will weigh heavily in favor of enforcing the legal property lines. On the other hand, if neither neighbor knew about the error, and it turns out that the actual property line goes through somebody's living room, a court probably won't enforce them.
In Vestavia Hills, Alabama courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually governed by some fairly confusing (and old) legal principles. While they're usually built around policies that most people would find to be quite fair and reasonable, their application can be nearly impenetrable, even for some lawyers.
Without delving into the details too much, courts typically resolve title disputes by looking at who recorded the deed first, and whether or not that person had notice of any prior sales of the same land. To succeed in a dispute like this, a buyer will usually need to prove that they were the first to record their deed, and that they had no notice (or reason to know) of any prior conveyances of the same land.
What Can A Vestavia Hills, Alabama Attorney Do?
Real property disputes typically involve very old legal principles that can even confound lawyers who aren't experts in real estate law. For that reason, you should almost always hire an expert Vestavia Hills, Alabama real estate attorney, who will help you navigate these murky legal waters.