Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Maryland
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.
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. Nonetheless, 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.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in Germantown, Maryland. There are also title disputes. These disagreements arise when it isn't clear who owns an entire parcel of land. There are many reasons why such confusion might arise, but a common one is failure to properly record a deed, or subsequent loss of a deed by the recording office. While usually innocent in origin, these disputes can also be the product of fraud. Sometimes, a landowner will sell his land to more than one person, with each buyer assuming that they are the only buyer. Having "sold" his land multiple times, the fraudster presumably flees the jurisdiction with his ill-gotten gains. This leaves the buyers to figure out who actually owns the land that each of them thought they had just bought. Obviously, whoever loses this dispute will usually have to absorb the loss of the land's purchase price, if the fraudulent seller cannot be found.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Germantown, Maryland
One common 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 usually happens when both parties were, for many years, aware of the actual property boundaries, and did nothing about it. Furthermore, 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.
Of course, there are plethora of reasons why a court might determine 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 essentially say "I guess it wasn't that important to you if you waited 10 years to bring this to our attention. Next case."
In Germantown, Maryland courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually controlled by some fairly perplexing (and old) legal principles. While they're generally built around policies that most people would find to be quite fair and reasonable, their application can be nearly impenetrable, even for some lawyers.
In general, the person who initially recorded the deed at the appropriate government office will be the one who the court deems to own the land, if they didn't have any reason to know about the existence of the other deed, or other sale, or whatever else gave rise to the title dispute.
What Can A Germantown, Maryland Attorney Do?
Because of the high stakes, going it alone in a boundary or title dispute is rarely recommended. Therefore, it's almost always a good idea to get a good Germantown, Maryland real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.