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 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.
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 Fairfield, 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 Fairfield, 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 typically considered 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 a very large burden on one neighbor, and re-drawing them to reflect their actual use would put a comparatively small burden on the other neighbor
On the other hand, a court could decide to take the opposite approach, and order the neighbors to abide by the legal property lines. When deciding which course of action to take, courts consider many factors, but most of them boil down to common-sense principles of fairness. For example, if the owner of the land who was encroaching onto his neighbor's land knew of the encroachment, and hid this fact from the other neighbor (hoping to continue to use more land than he paid for), that will weigh heavily in favor of enforcing the legal property lines. On the other hand, if neither neighbor knew about the error, and it turns out that the actual property line goes through somebody's living room, a court probably won't enforce them.
In Fairfield, California courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually governed by some fairly difficult (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.
Typically, the person who records the deed first will be the one who takes ownership. Of course, this will only be if they had no reason to know about the other deeds).
What Can A Fairfield, California Attorney Do?
Real property disputes often 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 Fairfield, California real estate attorney, who will help you navigate these murky legal waters.