Title & Boundary Dispute Law in West Virginia
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.
Ideally, the neighbors could just dismiss the situation, and go on as they had before, effectively agreeing to change the property lines to reflect their past use. This doesn't always happen, however. Additionally, such a course of action is not free of issues, and could eventually result in ownership of the land legally changing to reflect the past use, even if one of the neighbors opposes this.
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.
People in Huntington, West Virginia should also be aware of the possibility of title (ownership) disputes. Unlike the boundary disputes considered above, the outcome of a title dispute can decide 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). Typically, 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 Huntington, West Virginia
One way to resolve boundary disputes is to simply re-draw the property lines to reflect what the neighbors thought they were all along. When this happens, nobody's case changes, and it's usually considered a neutral result (causing no significant loss or gain to either party). This is often done if both of the neighbors knew about the actual property lines for many years, and didn't do anything about it. A court might also take this course of action if enforcing the property lines would impose a substantial hardship on one of the parties, not outweighed by the overall benefits of doing so.
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.
In Huntington, West Virginia courts have many options when it comes to resolving title disputes. However, these disputes are usually controlled by some fairly complicated (and old) legal principles. While they're usually built around policies that most people would find to be quite fair and reasonable, their application can be nearly impenetrable, even for some lawyers.
Without delving into the specifics too much, courts typically 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 succeed in a dispute like this, a buyer will usually 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 Huntington, West Virginia Attorney Do?
Because of the high stakes, going it alone in a boundary or title dispute is rarely recommended. Therefore, it's almost always a good idea to get a good Huntington, West Virginia real estate attorney to help you with such legal problems.