Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Missouri
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.
In these examples, neighbors usually have the option to resolve the dispute by themselves. If the neighbors are on amicable terms with each other, and the dispute is minor (for example, it only involves a difference of a couple feet), and enforcing the property lines would be a major inconvenience for one or both of the neighbors, they'll probably decide to just go on as they had before. This is a viable option, to be sure, but it's not a perfect one: if, sometime down the road, one of the neighbors wants to attempt to enforce the legal boundaries, they might find themselves unable to do so.
It's more often the case that one neighbor wants to maintain the current use of the land, property lines notwithstanding, while the other neighbor wants to enforce the property lines that are on record. This is because moving a property line necessarily expands the land of one neighbor, while shrinking the land of another. Obviously, the neighbor whose land would be shrunk will probably oppose any attempt to enforce the property lines.
In Independence, Missouri, 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 Independence, Missouri
One possible outcome of a boundary dispute is a court effectively re-drawing the boundaries to fit what the neighbors had perceived. This is most often done if the neighbors were aware for a long time of the "real" property lines, and didn't do anything about it. It also helps if the neighbor who is encroaching makes major improvements to the land, and enforcing the new property lines would place a major burden on him.
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 Independence, Missouri courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually governed by some fairly complex (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.
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 Independence, Missouri Attorney Do?
Real property disputes typically 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 Independence, Missouri real estate attorney, who will help you navigate these murky legal waters.