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.
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.
In addition to the boundary disputes mentioned above, land owners and buyers in Littlestown, Pennsylvania should also be aware of the possibility of a title dispute. Rather than being a disagreement over the exact boundaries between two pieces of land, a title dispute is a disagreement over who actually owns an entire plot of land. Uncertainty over ownership of land can come up more often than you might think, and is most often caused by a buyer's failure to correctly record a deed, or the accidental loss or destruction of a deed. Sometimes, however, these disputes can be more dishonest in origin: on occasion, unscrupulous sellers of land will attempt to sell the same parcel to more than one person. Obviously, once you've sold land to one person, you can't sell the same land to someone else, as you no longer own it. These tricksters know this, but are attempting to gain a large amount of money through the multiple sales. Once this is done, they usually attempt to flee the state or country before the buyers discovery they've been duped. This leaves it up to the buyers to figure out amongst themselves who owns the land.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Littlestown, Pennsylvania
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 might do the opposite, and decide to enforce the property lines as they're drawn. This will necessarily benefit one neighbor and hurt the other. A court will probably do this if one neighbor knew that his land was encroaching onto another person's property, and actively tried to hide that fact from his neighbor. Obviously, such bad behavior shouldn't be rewarded. Conversely, if the neighbor whose land was being encroached upon knew about the discrepancy, and did nothing about it, the court will probably change the property lines to reflect this prior use, to prevent that neighbor from being rewarded for "sitting on his rights."
When a title dispute comes up in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, 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 dispute.
What Can A Littlestown, Pennsylvania 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 Littlestown, Pennsylvania real estate attorney will prove invaluable if such a dispute arises.