Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Maryland
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.
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.
Typically, when this happens, the owner of the property which is being encroached upon wants to expand their property to reflect the legal boundaries, and the owner of the land that will be shrunk by recognizing the legal property lines will want to keep the situation as it is.
In Baltimore County, Maryland, 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 Baltimore County, Maryland
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 situation changes, and it's usually 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 substantial hardship on one of the parties, not outweighed by the overall benefits of doing so.
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.
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 complicated and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide Baltimore County, Maryland 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 Baltimore County, Maryland Attorney Do?
As you might have gathered, it's not uncommon for the legal issues governing 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 Baltimore County, Maryland real estate lawyer to help in situations like this is always a good idea.