Title disputes arise when two people disagree about who owns a parcel of land. Boundary disputes refer to disagreements about the amount of area the property covers. They can come up for a variety of reasons, from an overgrown tree to a neighbor expanding their home with a large addition that can go past their property line.
A lot of these issues occur because of poorly maintained or unclear records, as well as neglected fences and a mutual misunderstanding between the property owners. Today, these types of disputes are decreasing with newer construction because of more efficient record keeping practices.
What Does “Title” Actually Mean?
Title refers to a person’s legal relationship to the land a person owns. Having title gives a person the right to a specific piece of land. While the following is not an exhaustive list of rights, having title generally gives you the right to:
- Possession and use of the land;
- Water rights;
- Mineral rights; and
You should record the title to your property. The physical document you will record is referred to as a title deed. During a real estate sale, a title deed title must be both referenced and recorded with the county recorder’s office and should include information about any liens, mortgages, easements or other things that affect ownership rights.
You should also get title insurance before completing the sale. This insurance will protect you if a title dispute arises. Your insurance company will complete a comprehensive search to make sure no one else has an interest in your property before the sale is completed. If a dispute arises, the insurance company will defend you.
How Can I Determine my Property's Boundary Lines?
Determining the boundary lines for your property can be confusing. In order to figure this out, you should look at the description in your deed and real property survey. You can generally get this information from the County Recorder’s Office or Assessor’s Office.
If you live in a subdivision, you can also look at the subdivision plat map. This map is created by the subdivision builder prior to construction.
Unfortunately boundary line disputes between neighbors are common. You should first attempt to resolve the dispute directly with your neighbor, especially if you are dealing with a smaller area of land or something that could benefit your neighbor as well (such as putting up a new fence).
If your neighbor has an issue with your plans and disagrees about the boundary lines of both your properties, you will likely need to take legal action.
What Other Issues Can Impact Your Title and Boundary?
There are many problems that can come out of maintaining your property’s boundary and title. Each issue has its unique set of laws and will require extensive knowledge of real estate law to navigate the process. You can read more about them here:
- Easement by Prescription;
- Conservation Easements;
- Title Insurance;
- Property Survey Disputes; and
- Legal Rights with a Neighbor’s Tree.
Should I Hire an Attorney if I Encounter a Title or Boundary Line Issue?
If you encounter an issue involving title or boundary lines, you should contact a real estate attorney. Determining property title and boundary lines can be complex, especially if you own an older home. A local real estate attorney can help you determine whether you have clear title and determine your boundary lines. An attorney can also attempt settlement or defend you in court proceedings if formal legal action ensues.