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 really 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 Mill Valley, 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 Mill Valley, 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 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 a 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

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.

In the case of disputes over title, courts have to figure out who owns a specific piece of real property. Courts will consider many factors, and there are some complex and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide Mill Valley, California courts on these matters.

Without delving into the specifics too much, courts normally 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 win in a dispute like this, a buyer will typically 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 Mill Valley, California Attorney Do?

Because of the high stakes, going it alone in a boundary or title dispute is rarely judicious. Therefore, it's almost always a good idea to get a good Mill Valley, California real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.