Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Montana

Occasionally, neighbors will find out that their use of their land (or what they thought was their land) is not reflected in the actual property lines on record. Obviously, this can create a problem.

In a seemingly-ideal situation, the neighbors will choose to ignore this new revelation, and go on as they always have. Of course, this doesn't happen frequently, and might have consequences down the road, including title eventually changing to reflect the perceived property lines, without the choice of either neighbor.

It's more frequently 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 likely oppose any attempt to enforce the property lines.

In Billings, Montana, property can also be the subject of title disputes, rather than boundary disputes described above. These types of disagreements stem from disagreements over who owns a piece of property. Confusion in this area is more prevalent 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 typically inadvertent, but some people do it deliberately, hoping to abscond the profits acquired 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 Billings, Montana

One possible result of a boundary dispute is a court effectively re-drawing the boundaries to fit what the neighbors had perceived. This is most frequently 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, 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 instance, if the neighbor who is benefiting from the prevailing 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. Therefore, 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 essentially consented to the current arrangement when they took no action to correct it.

When a title dispute comes up in Billings, Montana, the court has to apply some pretty complex 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 Billings, Montana Attorney Do?

Real property disputes usually 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 Billings, Montana real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.