Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Arkansas
Finding out that property lines are improperly drawn and learning that you have been partially occupying your neighbor's land, or vice versa, can cause some very serious legal issues.
Ideally, the neighbors could just dismiss 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. Also, 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 often 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 likely 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 Benton County, Arkansas. 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 usually 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 actually owns the land that each of them thought they had just bought. Obviously, whoever loses this dispute will usually 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 Benton County, Arkansas
One possible result of a boundary dispute is a court effectively re-drawing the boundaries to fit what the neighbors had perceived. This is most often 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.
A court, for several possible reasons, might decide to give effect to the legally-recorded property lines, which would necessarily change the neighbors' situation, with respect to how they use their land. For instance, if the neighbor who is benefiting from the prevailing situation (he is using land beyond the actual boundary of his property, thereby encroaching onto the land of another) knew about the discrepancy and took steps to actively hide this fact from the other neighbor, the court is very unlikely to do anything that rewards this behavior, even in the slightest. Therefore, a court is likely to decide against the dishonest neighbor. Conversely, if the neighbor who would benefit from enforcing the property lines did nothing to make this happen for many years, a court will probably tell them that they had their chance, and essentially consented to the current arrangement when they took no action to correct it.
When a title dispute comes up in Benton County, Arkansas, the court has to apply some pretty confusing legal and equitable principles. These rules are sometimes very obscure, mainly because they can trace their origins back hundreds of years, to the common-law courts of England. However, a close examination of them reveals their basic goal: deciding ownership disputes based on longstanding conceptions of basic fairness.
In general, the person who initially recorded the deed at the appropriate government office will be the one who the court deems to own the land, if they didn't have any reason to know about the existence of the other deed, or other sale, or whatever else gave rise to the title dispute.
What Can A Benton County, Arkansas Attorney Do?
Because of the high stakes, going it alone in a boundary or title dispute is rarely judicious. Therefore, it's almost always a good idea to get a good Benton County, Arkansas real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.