Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Michigan
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.
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.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in St. Clair County, Michigan. 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 typically 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 truly owns the land that each of them thought they had just bought. Obviously, whoever loses this dispute will typically 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 St. Clair County, Michigan
There are many ways to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to change the legal property lines to reflect the use that the neighbors had been making of the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This is usually considered a sort of "neutral" result - nobody's situation changes. If both neighbors knew about the real boundaries for a very long time, and did nothing about it, a court may view this as them having acquiesced to the status quo, and decide that it would be unfair to force the neighbors to change their use of the land after such a long period of time. This might also be done if enforcing the property lines would place a very large burden on one neighbor, and re-drawing them to reflect their actual use would put a comparatively small burden on the other 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 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 difficult and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide St. Clair County, Michigan courts on these matters.
Usually, the person who records the deed first will be the one who takes ownership. Of course, this will only be if they had no reason to know about the other deeds).
What Can A St. Clair County, Michigan Attorney Do?
Because of the high stakes, going it alone in a boundary or title dispute is rarely advisable. Therefore, it's almost always a good idea to get a good St. Clair County, Michigan real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.