Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Virginia
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 considerable conflict, as one might expect.
In these cases, 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 contains 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.
Nonetheless, 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.
In addition to the boundary disputes mentioned above, land owners and buyers in Martinsville, Virginia 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 dispute 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 anyone 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 normally 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 Martinsville, Virginia
Courts have many tools at their disposal to resolve boundary disputes. One way is to just re-draw the property lines to reflect how the neighbors had been using the land before the discrepancy was discovered. This doesn't truly change the position of either neighbor, and is sometimes the fairest result. This is most commonly 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 determine 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 majority of them boil down to common-sense principles of fairness. For instance, 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 likely 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 complicated laws in Martinsville, Virginia.
Without delving into the specifics too much, courts normally 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 win in a dispute like this, a buyer will typically 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 Martinsville, Virginia Attorney Do?
Real property disputes usually 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 Martinsville, Virginia real estate attorney, who will assist you navigate these murky legal waters.