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. 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 likely oppose any attempt to enforce the property lines.
People in Prescott, Arizona should also be aware of the possibility of title (ownership) disputes. Unlike the boundary disputes considered above, the outcome of a title dispute can decide who owns an entire parcel of real property. Confusion over who actually owns a piece of property is more common that some people might imagine. Many local property records are still kept on paper, are not very well-organized, and sometimes date back a hundred years or more. A lost or misfiled deed is the most common way for a title dispute to arise. However, sometimes fraud on the part of a seller can lead to title disputes. Unscrupulous individuals will sometimes try to sell the same piece of land to more than one person. And some people even try to sell property they don't own, occasionally succeeding (and this isn't just limited to bridges in London). Normally, once the buyers discover they've been duped, the "seller" is nowhere to be found, leaving them to figure out who owns the land they all thought they had purchased.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Prescott, Arizona
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 may do the opposite, and decide to enforce the property lines as they're drawn. This will generally benefit one neighbor and hurt the other. A court will probably do this if one neighbor knew that his land was encroaching onto another person's property, and actively tried to hide that fact from his neighbor. Obviously, such bad actions shouldn't be rewarded. Conversely, if the neighbor whose land was being encroached upon knew about the discrepancy, and did nothing about it, the court will likely change the property lines to reflect this prior use, to prevent that neighbor from being rewarded for "sitting on his rights."
In Prescott, Arizona courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually controlled by some fairly intricate (and old) legal principles. While they're typically 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 going into too much detail, the individual who recorded their deed initially 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 Prescott, Arizona Attorney Do?
Real property disputes frequently 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 Prescott, Arizona real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.