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 Petaluma, 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 Petaluma, California
One way to resolve boundary disputes is to simply re-draw the property lines to reflect what the neighbors thought they were all along. When this happens, nobody's case changes, and it's generally considered a neutral result (causing no significant loss or gain to either party). This is often done if both of the neighbors knew about the actual property lines for many years, and didn't do anything about it. A court might also take this course of action if enforcing the property lines would impose a significant hardship on one of the parties, not outweighed by the overall benefits of doing so.
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.
In Petaluma, 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 Petaluma, California Attorney Do?
Real property disputes usually 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 Petaluma, California real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.