Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Massachusetts
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.
Sometimes, neighbors will decide amongst themselves that the issue isn't worth fighting over, and will go on as they did before. This is especially 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, nonetheless, 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 Lowell, Massachusetts, property can also be the subject of title disputes, rather than boundary disputes described above. These types of disagreements 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 acquired 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 Lowell, Massachusetts
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 case 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.
A court, for many possible reasons, might decide to give effect to the legally-recorded property lines, which would generally change the neighbors' situation, with respect to how they use their land. For instance, if the neighbor who is benefiting from the prevailing 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. Therefore, 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 essentially consented to the current arrangement when they took no action to correct it.
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 Lowell, Massachusetts.
Without delving into the specifics too much, courts normally 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 win in a dispute like this, a buyer will typically 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 Lowell, Massachusetts Attorney Do?
Real property disputes usually 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 Lowell, Massachusetts real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.