Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Massachusetts
If you discover that you and your neighbor's use of your respective properties do not reflect the legal property lines, this can create a problem.
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 Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 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 prevalent 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 typically 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 Fitchburg, Massachusetts
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.
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 typically say "I guess it wasn't that important to you if you waited 10 years to bring this to our attention. Next case."
In the case of disputes over title, courts have to figure out who owns a particular piece of real property. Courts will consider many factors, and there are some difficult and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide Fitchburg, Massachusetts courts on these matters.
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 Fitchburg, Massachusetts Attorney Do?
The legal issues surrounding title and boundary disputes can get pretty intricate, and there are typically very high stakes involved (most people think their land is pretty important). For that reason, a good Fitchburg, Massachusetts real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.