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 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. Furthermore, 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 commonly 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 Van Buren, 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 normally 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 really owns the land that each of them thought they had just bought. Obviously, whoever loses this dispute will normally 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 Van Buren, Arkansas
One frequent 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 normally happens when both parties were, for many years, aware of the actual property boundaries, and did nothing about it. Additionally, 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.
A court, for many possible reasons, might decide to give effect to the legally-recorded property lines, which would generally change the neighbors' situation, with respect to how they use their land. For example, if the neighbor who is benefiting from the current 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. Accordingly, 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 basically consented to the current arrangement when they took no action to correct it.
When a title dispute comes up in Van Buren, Arkansas, the court has to apply some pretty complicated legal and equitable principles. These rules are sometimes fairly 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.
Without going into too much detail, the person who recorded their deed first will be the one who takes ownership, provided he or she did not know (or had no reason to know) of the existence of the other deed.
What Can A Van Buren, Arkansas Attorney Do?
As you might have gathered, it's not uncommon for the legal issues governing boundary and title disputes to get very complicated. Additionally, any dispute that can affect one's use or ownership of land has very high stakes (land isn't normally cheap, after all). Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that hiring a competent Van Buren, Arkansas real estate lawyer to help in situations like this is always a good idea.