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.
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 Stoughton, Massachusetts 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 anyone 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 Stoughton, Massachusetts
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 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 intricate laws in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
Without delving into the specifics 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 Stoughton, Massachusetts Attorney Do?
As you might have gathered, it's not uncommon for the legal issues controlling boundary and title disputes to get very complicated. Moreover, any dispute that can affect one's use or ownership of land has very high stakes (land isn't typically cheap, after all). Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that hiring a competent Stoughton, Massachusetts real estate lawyer to help in situations like this is always a good idea.