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.
In addition to the boundary disputes mentioned above, land owners and buyers in Novato, California should also be aware of the possibility of a title dispute. Rather than being a disagreement over the exact boundaries between two pieces of land, a title dispute is a disagreement over who actually owns an entire plot of land. Uncertainty over ownership of land can come up more often than you might think, and is most often caused by a buyer's failure to correctly record a deed, or the accidental loss or destruction of a deed. Sometimes, however, these disputes can be more dishonest in origin: on occasion, unscrupulous sellers of land will attempt to sell the same parcel to more than one person. Obviously, once you've sold land to one person, you can't sell the same land to anyone else, as you no longer own it. These tricksters know this, but are attempting to gain a large amount of money through the multiple sales. Once this is done, they usually attempt to flee the state or country before the buyers discovery they've been duped. This leaves it up to the buyers to figure out amongst themselves who owns the land.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Novato, 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 often 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.
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.
When a title dispute comes up in Novato, California, the court has to apply some pretty complex 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.
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 Novato, 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 Novato, California real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.