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 usually 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 very 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.
Usually, 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 Cumberland, 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 common 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 usually 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 Cumberland, Maryland
Courts have many tools at their disposal to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to simply re-draw the property lines to reflect how the neighbors had been using the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This doesn't really change the position of either neighbor, and is sometimes the fairest result. This is most often done because the neighbors were both aware of the legal property lines, and that they differed from how they were using the land, and went on using the land anyway.
A court might do the opposite, and decide to enforce the property lines as they're drawn. This will necessarily 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 behavior 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 probably 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 particular piece of real property. Courts will consider many factors, and there are some perplexing and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide Cumberland, Maryland courts on these matters.
Without delving into the details too much, courts usually 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 prevail in a dispute like this, a buyer will generally 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 Cumberland, 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. Furthermore, any dispute that can affect one's use or ownership of land has very high stakes (land isn't usually cheap, after all). Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that hiring a competent Cumberland, Maryland real estate lawyer to help in situations like this is always a good idea.