Title & Boundary Dispute Law in New Jersey
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.
Ideally, the neighbors could just dismiss 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 Middlesex 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 Middlesex 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.
A court, for several possible reasons, might decide to give effect to the legally-recorded property lines, which would necessarily 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.
With title disputes, a court has to decide who owns a particular piece of land. There are many factors that a court will consider, and this decision is governed by some fairly complex laws in Middlesex County, New Jersey.
Without delving into the specifics 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 Middlesex County, New Jersey Attorney Do?
The legal issues surrounding title and boundary disagreements can get pretty perplexing, and there are usually very high stakes involved (most people think their land is pretty important). For that reason, a good Middlesex County, New Jersey real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.