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 normally 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 extremely 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.
Normally, 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.
People in Silver Spring, Maryland should also be aware of the possibility of title (ownership) disputes. Unlike the boundary disputes considered above, the outcome of a title dispute can decide who owns an entire parcel of real property. Confusion over who actually owns a piece of property is more common that some people might imagine. Many local property records are still kept on paper, are not very well-organized, and sometimes date back a hundred years or more. A lost or misfiled deed is the most common way for a title dispute to arise. However, sometimes fraud on the part of a seller can lead to title disputes. Unscrupulous individuals will sometimes try to sell the same piece of land to more than one person. And some people even try to sell property they don't own, occasionally succeeding (and this isn't just limited to bridges in London). Normally, once the buyers discover they've been duped, the "seller" is nowhere to be found, leaving them to figure out who owns the land they all thought they had purchased.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Silver Spring, Maryland
One frequent 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 normally happens when both parties were, for many years, aware of the actual property boundaries, and did nothing about it. Additionally, 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 may do the opposite, and decide to enforce the property lines as they're drawn. This will generally 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 actions 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 likely change the property lines to reflect this prior use, to prevent that neighbor from being rewarded for "sitting on his rights."
When a title dispute comes up in Silver Spring, Maryland, the court has to apply some pretty perplexing legal and equitable principles. These rules are sometimes very obscure, mainly because they can trace their origins back hundreds of years, to the common-law courts of England. However, a close examination of them reveals their basic goal: deciding ownership disputes based on longstanding conceptions of basic fairness.
Without going into too much detail, the individual who recorded their deed initially 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 Silver Spring, Maryland Attorney Do?
Real property disputes frequently 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 Silver Spring, Maryland real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.