Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Iowa
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.
It's typically possible, though not always easy, for neighbors to come to a resolution of these disputes on their own. If the neighbors happen to like one another, and the difference between the actual property lines and what they believed the property lines to be is quite small (a foot or two, for example), they might simply decide to go on as they had before. This is certainly a desirable solution in the short term, since it saves everyone a great deal of time and energy. However, in the long term, this can cause problems, particularly if one neighbor decides they want to enforce the legal property lines down the road.
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.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in Fort Madison, Iowa. There are also title disputes. These disagreements arise when it isn't clear who owns an entire parcel of land. There are many reasons why such confusion might arise, but a common one is failure to properly record a deed, or subsequent loss of a deed by the recording office. While typically innocent in origin, these disputes can also be the product of fraud. Sometimes, a landowner will sell his land to more than one person, with each buyer assuming that they are the only buyer. Having "sold" his land multiple times, the fraudster presumably flees the jurisdiction with his ill-gotten gains. This leaves the buyers to figure out who truly owns the land that each of them thought they had just bought. Obviously, whoever loses this dispute will typically have to absorb the loss of the land's purchase price, if the fraudulent seller cannot be found.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Fort Madison, Iowa
One customary resolution for boundary disputes is a court re-drawing the boundaries to fit with what the assumptions that the neighbors were operating under before the error was discovered. This typically happens when both parties were, for many years, aware of the actual property boundaries, and did nothing about it. Moreover, if the neighbor who has been encroaching onto the other neighbor's land has made costly improvements thereto, this weighs in favor of that neighbor, since changing the property lines would impose significant hardship on that neighbor.
A court, for various possible reasons, might decide to give effect to the legally-recorded property lines, which would always change the neighbors' situation, with respect to how they use their land. For example, if the neighbor who is benefiting from the current 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. Accordingly, 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 basically consented to the current arrangement when they took no action to correct it.
When a title dispute comes up in Fort Madison, Iowa, the court has to apply some pretty complicated legal and equitable principles. These rules are sometimes fairly 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.
Without going into too much detail, the person who recorded their deed first will be the one who takes ownership, provided he or she did not know (or had no reason to know) of the existence of the other deed.
What Can A Fort Madison, Iowa 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 Fort Madison, Iowa real estate attorney, who will help you navigate these murky legal waters.