Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Arizona
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 Flagstaff, Arizona. 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 Flagstaff, Arizona
Courts have many tools at their disposal to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to just re-draw the property lines to reflect how the neighbors had been using the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This doesn't really change the position of either neighbor, and is sometimes the fairest result. This is most often done because the neighbors were both aware of the legal property lines, and that they differed from how they were using the land, and went on using the land anyway.
Of course, there are plethora of reasons why a court might determine to enforce the property lines as the records indicate. If one neighbor knew about the discrepancy, and hid it from the other neighbor (presumably because the neighbor with the knowledge of the discrepancy benefited from it), a court will, of course, not reward this kind of dishonesty, and will decide against that neighbor. On the other hand, if the neighbor whose land would be expanded by enforcing the "real" property boundaries knew this fact, and took no action for many years, a court will probably not be receptive if he or she suddenly tries to enforce them. This is referred to as "sitting on one's rights," and courts will not reward this, either. If you have a legal right, you're expected to make efforts to vindicate it as soon as possible. If you don't, a court will essentially say "I guess it wasn't that important to you if you waited 10 years to bring this to our attention. Next case."
In the case of disputes over title, courts have to figure out who owns a specific piece of real property. Courts will consider many factors, and there are some difficult and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide Flagstaff, Arizona courts on these matters.
Suffice to say, you'll want the assistance of an expert on this subject. In general, however, you should know that courts almost always rule in favor of the buyer who first recorded the deed, AND (not "or") didn't have knowledge of any previous conveyances. This protects the buyer who was most diligent in vindicating his own rights, and acted in good faith (obviously, a buyer who knew about a previous sale of the same land isn't acting honestly).
What Can A Flagstaff, Arizona 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 Flagstaff, Arizona real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.