Title & Boundary Dispute Law in Washington
Sometimes, neighbors will discover that the way they've been using their land doesn't conform with the property lines that the local government has on record. When they find out, the case has to be resolved somehow. In such cases, there is usually a winner and a loser, so conflict is likely to arise.
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 frequently, and might have consequences down the road, including title eventually changing to reflect the perceived property lines, without the choice of either neighbor.
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 Bellingham, Washington, property can also be the subject of title disputes, rather than boundary disputes described above. These types of disagreements stem from disagreements over who owns a piece of property. Confusion in this area is more prevalent than one might think. If a deed is improperly recorded, land can be "owned" by 2 people simultaneously. Even more troublesome is when land is "sold" to more than one person. This is typically inadvertent, but some people do it deliberately, hoping to abscond the profits acquired by selling the same thing twice. In cases like this, a court has to determine which buyer owns the land. This is a big deal, considering how unlikely it is that a defrauded buyer could get his or her money back.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Bellingham, Washington
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 usually regarded 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 an extremely large burden on one neighbor, and re-drawing them to reflect their actual use would put a comparatively small burden on the other neighbor
Nonetheless, a court might also enforce the legal property boundaries, particularly 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 further weigh heavily in favor of enforcing the legal property lines.
With title disputes (as opposed to the boundary disputes discussed above), a Bellingham, Washington court has to determine who owns an entire parcel of land. There are some pretty difficult legal issues involved here.
In general, the person who initially 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 Bellingham, Washington Attorney Do?
As you might have gathered, it's not uncommon for the legal issues controlling boundary and title disputes to get very complicated. Moreover, any dispute that can affect one's use or ownership of land has very high stakes (land isn't typically cheap, after all). Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that hiring a competent Bellingham, Washington real estate lawyer to help in situations like this is always a good idea.