Title & Boundary Dispute Law in California
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.
Thus, neighbors more commonly end up in some type of legal dispute over whether and to what extent the property lines should be enforced. Obviously, when the property lines are changed, one neighbor wins, and the other loses. It should come as no surprise, then, that legal fights are often the result.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in Contra Costa County, California. 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 Contra Costa County, California
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 commonly 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 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 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 Contra Costa County, California, the court has to apply some pretty perplexing 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.
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 Contra Costa County, California Attorney Do?
Real property disputes usually 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 Contra Costa County, California real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.