Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Delaware
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.
Sometimes, neighbors will decide amongst themselves that the issue isn't worth fighting over, and will go on as they did before. This is particularly 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, however, cause problems in the future - preventing a neighbor from enforcing the actual property lines, if they suddenly have a reason to do so.
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.
In Sussex County, Delaware, property can also be the subject of title disputes, rather than boundary disputes described above. These types of disputes stem from disagreements over who owns a piece of property. Confusion in this area is more frequent than one might think. If a deed is improperly recorded, land can be "owned" by 2 people simultaneously. Even more troublesome is when land is "sold" to more than one person. This is normally inadvertent, but some people do it deliberately, hoping to abscond the profits gained by selling the same thing twice. In cases like this, a court has to determine which buyer owns the land. This is a big deal, considering how unlikely it is that a defrauded buyer could get his or her money back.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Sussex County, Delaware
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 situation changes, and it's typically 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 considerable hardship on one of the parties, not outweighed by the overall benefits of doing so.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why a court might decide to enforce the property lines as the records indicate. If one neighbor knew about the discrepancy, and hid it from the other neighbor (presumably because the neighbor with the knowledge of the discrepancy benefited from it), a court will, of course, not reward this kind of dishonesty, and will decide against that neighbor. On the other hand, if the neighbor whose land would be expanded by enforcing the "real" property boundaries knew this fact, and took no action for many years, a court will probably not be receptive if he or she suddenly tries to enforce them. This is referred to as "sitting on one's rights," and courts will not reward this, either. If you have a legal right, you're expected to make efforts to vindicate it as soon as possible. If you don't, a court will basically say "I guess it wasn't that important to you if you waited 10 years to bring this to our attention. Next case."
With title disputes, a court has to decide who owns a particular piece of land. There are many factors that a court will consider, and this decision is governed by some fairly complicated laws in Sussex County, Delaware.
Suffice to say, you'll want the help 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 prior 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 prior sale of the same land isn't acting honestly).
What Can A Sussex County, Delaware Attorney Do?
The legal issues surrounding title and boundary disputes can get pretty convoluted, and there are normally very high stakes involved (most people think their land is pretty important). For that reason, a good Sussex County, Delaware real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.