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. 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 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 Fort Smith, 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 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 Fort Smith, Arkansas
One customary resolution for boundary disputes is a court re-drawing the boundaries to fit with what the assumptions that the neighbors were operating under before the error was discovered. This typically happens when both parties were, for many years, aware of the actual property boundaries, and did nothing about it. Moreover, if the neighbor who has been encroaching onto the other neighbor's land has made costly improvements thereto, this weighs in favor of that neighbor, since changing the property lines would impose significant hardship on that neighbor.
Nonetheless, a court might also enforce the legal property boundaries, particularly if failing to do so would place a significant burden on the owner of the encroached-upon land. If the owner of the encroaching land knew of the encroachment, and concealed it from his neighbor, this fact would further weigh heavily in favor of enforcing the legal property lines.
In Fort Smith, Arkansas courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually controlled by some fairly complicated (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 specifics 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 Fort Smith, Arkansas Attorney Do?
Because of the high stakes, going it alone in a boundary or title dispute is rarely recommended. Therefore, it's almost always a good idea to get a good Fort Smith, Arkansas real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.