A title dispute typically involves two adjoining landowners disagreeing over who actually owns a piece of property. In other words the property owners are disputing as to who actually owns the title to that piece of land. Boundary disputes, however, generally occur when two adjoining landowners disagree about where the line between their two pieces of property runs.
Boundary disputes often arise when one property owner wants to make a change to their property, while the other property owner, oftentimes a neighbor, disputes their right to do so while claiming it would infringe upon their property.
An example of this would be if one property owner wants to build a home addition, but their neighbor claims that the addition crosses the boundary line into their property. Another example would be if a property owner wishes to remove a tree or limb that they believe is on their property while their neighbor claims the tree or limb is on their property, whether wholly or partially.
Many property owners are unaware of where exactly their property lines are located. This poses a problem because landowners have the right to undertake home additions, remove trees, and take other similar types of action on their property only.
What does it mean to have a title and boundary dispute? Think of adjoining properties that share a boundary, arguing over who owns a sliver of land. Who is encroaching on who.
What Should I Do If I Have a Boundary Dispute with My Neighbor?
As can be seen, boundary disputes with neighboring landowners are fairly common. Additionally, title and boundary disputes with neighbors are extremely common when one property owner has a survey performed on their land. Surveys often reveal that an adjoining property owner has encroached onto the surveyed property.
If you have a boundary dispute with your neighbor, then it is important to remain collected and review your claim to the boundary before taking any action against your neighbor, such as filing a lawsuit.
First, you should always first try and communicate with the person you are having the boundary dispute with to see if it is possible to resolve the dispute without any further action on your part. For example, if they are wanting to cut a tree that you believe is within your boundary lines, then they may agree to simply trim the branches on their side or even shift the fence line in your favor.
However, if you can not reach an agreement you should then be ready to do all necessary preparation for resolving a boundary dispute. For example, it is important to first go to your local county land records office and look up the deed to your land, if you do not already have a copy of your deed.
The deed to your land will make it clear where the boundary lines for your property are. Additionally, you should also be able to gain the plat map for your neighborhood showing all of the boundary lines.
Once you have obtained the necessary paperwork that outlines the boundary lines for the property, you may then file a lawsuit against the offending party if they do not cease their trespass onto your land. Two common lawsuits that are filed in boundary dispute cases are: trespass lawsuits and declaratory judgment suits.
In a declaratory judgment action, you are asking the judge to make a ruling, or declaration, as to both where the actual boundary lines are and who should prevail on the boundary dispute. In a trespass lawsuit, you would seek that the other party cease their trespass onto your land, as well as damages for their previous trespasses upon your land without your permission.
What If the Title or Boundary Dispute is Over Natural Resources?
Title or boundary disputes over natural resources may involve other areas of the law in addition to laws regarding trespass to land. For example, if the boundary dispute is over who has the rights to water, such as a river or stream, you will have to research your local laws on riparian ownership (i.e. who may possess or use water as it flows or touches a property) or contact a riparian lawyer.
If the title or boundary dispute is concerning access to oil and gas, or other minerals that appear naturally underneath your land or within your boundary lines, you may need to contact an oil and gas attorney to help you navigate that particular dispute. In addition to the examples above, there are also other title or boundary disputes that may affect a landowner’s rights, including:
- Air rights;
- Improvement rights;
- Vegetation rights;
- The right to lateral or subjacent support; and
- The right to be free of public nuisances.
How Can You Determine Your Property Boundary?
Once again, the best way of determining your property boundary is to refer to your property deed and the plat records for your neighborhood. If you do not have a copy of your deed, then you can obtain one by visiting your local county clerk’s office or by requesting a copy of the deed online.
Another way of determining your property boundary is to have a real property survey performed on your property. Surveyors will trace your boundary lines back to the original deed for the land and ensure that no party has encroached on your property. In the real property survey report, the boundary lines for your property will be precisely calculated and measured.
How Do You Check to See If You Have a Title Dispute?
Once again, the term real estate title refers to the legal ownership of a piece of land. The legal title for your property should be recorded in your local county clerk’s record office. Importantly, if you have recently purchased a home or received title to a piece of property and have not recorded it, then you should immediately record your title to prevent a variety of different title disputes.
Title deeds will reveal any information that affects the property rights for the current owner. Therefore, the best place to check to see if you have a title dispute is to search the history of the transfer of title from one party to another.
If a title search at your local county clerk’s office reveals that a previous grantor granted title to multiple parties for a single piece of property, then there would be an obvious title dispute as to that piece of property. Additional issues that may cause title disputes include mortgages or liens filed on the property or the presence of any easements.
In order to reduce your risks of costly title disputes, you should consider purchasing title insurance when purchasing a new piece of property, as well as ensure that you receive a warranty deed.
Title insurance companies will ensure that your title is free and clear of any other interests prior to your purchase of the property, and in some cases even defend you in any future boundary disputes.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Dealing with a Title or Boundary Dispute?
Once again, the best method of resolving title and boundary disputes is communication with the other party that you have a dispute with. However, if you are unable to resolve the title or boundary dispute through communication, you should immediately consult a well qualified and knowledgeable real estate attorney in your area.
An experienced real estate attorney will help you understand your local laws concerning title and boundary disputes, as well as explain to you your land ownership rights. Additionally, an attorney will be able to assist you in initiating legal action against the opposing party. Finally, an attorney can represent you at any necessary court hearings.