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.
In these situations, 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 includes 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.
Typically, when this happens, the owner of the property which is being encroached upon wants to expand their property to reflect the legal boundaries, and the owner of the land that will be shrunk by recognizing the legal property lines will want to keep the situation as it is.
While the boundary disputes discussed above occur fairly regularly, they aren't the only type of land dispute that can happen in Ulster 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 Ulster County, New York
One customary 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 typically happens when both parties were, for many years, aware of the actual property boundaries, and did nothing about it. Moreover, 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.
However, a court might also enforce the legal property boundaries, especially if failing to do so would place a significant burden on the owner of the encroached-upon land. If the owner of the encroaching land knew of the encroachment, and concealed it from his neighbor, this fact would also weigh heavily in favor of enforcing the legal property lines.
When a title dispute comes up in Ulster County, New York, the court has to apply some pretty confusing legal and equitable principles. These rules are sometimes fairly 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.
In general, the person who first recorded the deed at the appropriate government office will be the one who the court deems to own the land, if they didn't have any reason to know about the existence of the other deed, or other sale, or whatever else gave rise to the title conflict.
What Can A Ulster County, New York Attorney Do?
The legal issues surrounding title and boundary disputes can get pretty intricate, and there are typically very high stakes involved (most people think their land is pretty important). For that reason, a good Ulster County, New York real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.