Title & Boundary Dispute Law in New Jersey
Sometimes, 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.
Ideally, the neighbors could just ignore the situation, and go on as they had before, effectively agreeing to change the property lines to reflect their past use. This doesn't always happen, however. Also, such a course of action is not free of issues, and could eventually result in ownership of the land legally changing to reflect the past use, even if one of the neighbors opposes this.
Therefore, neighbors more often 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 Mercer County, New Jersey. 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 Mercer County, New Jersey
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 plenty of reasons why a court might decide 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 Mercer County, New Jersey 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 going into too much detail, the person who recorded their deed first 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 Mercer County, New Jersey Attorney Do?
The legal issues surrounding title and boundary disputes can get pretty complicated, and there are usually very high stakes involved (most people think their land is pretty important). For that reason, a good Mercer County, New Jersey real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.