Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Indiana

If you know that you and your neighbor's use of your respective properties do not reflect the legal property lines, this can cause a problem.

In a seemingly-ideal situation, the neighbors will choose to ignore this new revelation, and go on as they always have. Of course, this doesn't happen frequently, and might have consequences down the road, including title eventually changing to reflect the perceived property lines, without the choice of either neighbor.

It's more frequently the case that one neighbor wants to maintain the current use of the land, property lines notwithstanding, while the other neighbor wants to enforce the property lines that are on record. This is because moving a property line necessarily expands the land of one neighbor, while shrinking the land of another. Obviously, the neighbor whose land would be shrunk will likely oppose any attempt to enforce the property lines.

People in St. Joseph County, Indiana should also be aware of the possibility of title (ownership) disputes. Unlike the boundary disputes considered above, the outcome of a title dispute can decide who owns an entire parcel of real property. Confusion over who actually owns a piece of property is more common that some people might imagine. Many local property records are still kept on paper, are not very well-organized, and sometimes date back a hundred years or more. A lost or misfiled deed is the most common way for a title dispute to arise. However, sometimes fraud on the part of a seller can lead to title disputes. Unscrupulous individuals will sometimes try to sell the same piece of land to more than one person. And some people even try to sell property they don't own, occasionally succeeding (and this isn't just limited to bridges in London). Typically, once the buyers discover they've been duped, the "seller" is nowhere to be found, leaving them to figure out who owns the land they all thought they had purchased.

Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in St. Joseph County, Indiana

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 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.

A court may do the opposite, and decide to enforce the property lines as they're drawn. This will always benefit one neighbor and hurt the other. A court will probably do this if one neighbor knew that his land was encroaching onto another person's property, and actively tried to hide that fact from his neighbor. Obviously, such bad actions shouldn't be rewarded. Conversely, if the neighbor whose land was being encroached upon knew about the discrepancy, and did nothing about it, the court will likely change the property lines to reflect this prior use, to prevent that neighbor from being rewarded for "sitting on his rights."

In the case of disputes over title, courts have to figure out who owns a specific piece of real property. Courts will consider many factors, and there are some perplexing and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide St. Joseph County, Indiana courts on these matters.

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 St. Joseph County, Indiana Attorney Do?

The legal issues surrounding title and boundary disagreements can get pretty confusing, and there are typically very high stakes involved (most people think their land is pretty important). For that reason, a good St. Joseph County, Indiana real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.