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. 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.
Consequently, neighbors more frequently 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 El Cerrito, 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 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 El Cerrito, California
There are many ways to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to change the legal property lines to reflect the use that the neighbors had been making of the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This is usually regarded a sort of "neutral" result - nobody's situation changes. If both neighbors knew about the real boundaries for a very long time, and did nothing about it, a court may view this as them having acquiesced to the status quo, and decide that it would be unfair to force the neighbors to change their use of the land after such a long period of time. This might also be done if enforcing the property lines would place an extremely large burden on one neighbor, and re-drawing them to reflect their actual use would put a comparatively small burden on the other 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.
With title disputes (as opposed to the boundary disputes discussed above), an El Cerrito, California court has to determine who owns an entire parcel of land. There are some pretty perplexing legal issues involved here.
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 El Cerrito, California 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 El Cerrito, California real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.