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.
Sometimes, neighbors will decide amongst themselves that the issue isn't worth fighting over, and will go on as they did before. This is especially likely if the neighbors are on good terms, and the difference between their use of the land, and the actual property lines, is small (say, a few feet or less). This is an ideal situation, at least in the short term. It can, nonetheless, cause problems in the future - preventing a neighbor from enforcing the actual property lines, if they suddenly have a reason to do so.
In these cases, what often happens is that the owner of the property which is actually larger than he initially believed (due to the property line not being where he thought it was) wants to make use of the further property, and eject his neighbor from it. The other neighbor, on the other hand, will want to keep using the land as before, to avoid having his property shrink.
Title disputes in Marin County, California, on the other hand, involve questions of ownership over an entire parcel of land. This confusion can occasionally arise from improperly recorded deeds, resulting in inadvertent (and, occasionally, deliberate) sales of the same parcel of land to multiple people. Obviously, each buyer wants to be the one who takes title, particularly if it seems unlikely that they'll be able to get their money back. This can lead to some very heated disputes.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Marin County, 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 generally 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
On the other hand, a court could determine 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 majority of them boil down to common-sense principles of fairness. For instance, 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 likely won't enforce them.
In Marin County, California courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually controlled by some fairly perplexing (and old) legal principles. While they're generally 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 delving into the specifics too much, courts usually resolve title disputes by looking at who recorded the deed first, and whether or not that person had notice of any prior sales of the same land. To prevail in a dispute like this, a buyer will generally need to prove that they were the first to record their deed, and that they had no notice (or reason to know) of any prior conveyances of the same land.
What Can A Marin County, California 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 Marin County, California real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.