Title & Boundary Dispute Law in New York
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.
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.
In these cases, what often happens is that the owner of the property which is truly larger than he initially believed (due to the property line not being where he thought it was) wants to make use of the additional property, and eject his neighbor from it. The other neighbor, on the other hand, will want to keep using the land as before, to avoid having his property shrink.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in Erie County, New York. 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 Erie County, New York
Courts have many tools at their disposal to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to simply re-draw the property lines to reflect how the neighbors had been using the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This doesn't very change the position of either neighbor, and is sometimes the fairest result. This is most frequently done because the neighbors were both aware of the legal property lines, and that they differed from how they were using the land, and went on using the land anyway.
On the other hand, a court could decide to take the opposite approach, and order the neighbors to abide by the legal property lines. When deciding which course of action to take, courts consider many factors, but most of them boil down to common-sense principles of fairness. For example, if the owner of the land who was encroaching onto his neighbor's land knew of the encroachment, and hid this fact from the other neighbor (hoping to continue to use more land than he paid for), that will weigh heavily in favor of enforcing the legal property lines. On the other hand, if neither neighbor knew about the error, and it turns out that the actual property line goes through somebody's living room, a court probably won't enforce them.
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 intricate laws in Erie County, New York.
Without delving into the details too much, courts typically 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 succeed in a dispute like this, a buyer will usually 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 Erie County, New York Attorney Do?
Real property disputes often 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 Erie County, New York real estate attorney, who will help you navigate these murky legal waters.