Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Florida
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.
Consequently, neighbors more frequently 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 addition to the boundary disputes mentioned above, land owners and buyers in Clearwater, Florida 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 conflict 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 someone 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 typically 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 Clearwater, Florida
One possible outcome of a boundary dispute is a court effectively re-drawing the boundaries to fit what the neighbors had perceived. This is most frequently 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 decide 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 most of them boil down to common-sense principles of fairness. For example, 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 probably won't enforce them.
In Clearwater, Florida courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually governed by some fairly confusing (and old) legal principles. While they're usually 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 details too much, courts typically 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 succeed in a dispute like this, a buyer will usually 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 Clearwater, Florida Attorney Do?
Real property disputes often 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 Clearwater, Florida real estate attorney, who will help you navigate these murky legal waters.