Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Pennsylvania
There are times when neighbors will find themselves in a situation where how they've been using their land doesn't match up with the property boundaries that are on record. This can be a source of significant conflict, as one might expect.
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 often, and might have consequences down the road, including title eventually changing to reflect the perceived property lines, without the choice of either neighbor.
However, it's more common for the neighbor whose land is being encroached upon by the other neighbor to seek enforcement of the legal property lines. The other neighbor will almost certainly want to use the property as he had been, since enforcing the legal property lines would cause him to lose some of "his" land.
People in Delaware County, Pennsylvania should also be aware of the possibility of title (ownership) disputes. Unlike the boundary disputes discussed above, the outcome of a title dispute can determine who owns an entire parcel of real property. Confusion over who actually owns a piece of property is more common that some people might imagine. Many local property records are still kept on paper, are not very well-organized, and sometimes date back a hundred years or more. A lost or misfiled deed is the most common way for a title dispute to arise. However, sometimes fraud on the part of a seller can lead to title disputes. Unscrupulous individuals will sometimes try to sell the same piece of land to more than one person. And some people even try to sell property they don't own, occasionally succeeding (and this isn't just limited to bridges in London). Usually, once the buyers discover they've been duped, the "seller" is nowhere to be found, leaving them to figure out who owns the land they all thought they had purchased.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Delaware County, Pennsylvania
There are many ways to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to change the legal property lines to reflect the use that the neighbors had been making of the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This is generally considered a sort of "neutral" result - nobody's situation changes. If both neighbors knew about the real boundaries for a very long time, and did nothing about it, a court may view this as them having acquiesced to the status quo, and decide that it would be unfair to force the neighbors to change their use of the land after such a long period of time. This might also be done if enforcing the property lines would place a very large burden on one neighbor, and re-drawing them to reflect their actual use would put a comparatively small burden on the other 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.
In the case of disputes over title, courts have to figure out who owns a particular piece of real property. Courts will consider many factors, and there are some confusing and (in some cases) antiquated legal issues that guide Delaware County, Pennsylvania courts on these matters.
Generally, the person who records the deed first will be the one who takes ownership. Of course, this will only be if they had no reason to know about the other deeds).
What Can A Delaware County, Pennsylvania Attorney Do?
As you might have gathered, it's not uncommon for the legal issues governing boundary and title disputes to get very complicated. Furthermore, any dispute that can affect one's use or ownership of land has very high stakes (land isn't usually cheap, after all). Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that hiring a competent Delaware County, Pennsylvania real estate lawyer to help in situations like this is always a good idea.