Boundary and Title Disputes in California: Legal Insights
Property lines are not always where you think they are, and sometimes, the owner of a piece of real estate is not clear. Such boundary and title disputes can completely upend your life, so it’s worth looking at some of their root causes and what can be done to resolve them.
What Is a Title Dispute?
A title dispute arises when two or more parties have competing claims to the same real property. For example, one person might build a house on a plot of land only to have another claim to own that very land. The legal proceeding for settling title disputes is called a “quiet title action” because the judge will determine the actual owner and therefore “quiet” any competing claims to the land.
Here are the most common causes of title disputes:
Adjacent property owners can disagree on exactly where the boundary line is between their properties. See more details on this below
Problems with the Deed
Errors or discrepancies in the deed can create big problems later. Most commonly, the problem with the deed is an incomplete or inaccurate description of the parcel.
An easement is a non-possessory right in real estate, meaning the easement holder doesn’t own the land or have the right to live there but does have some right to use the land in a limited way. For example, a neighbor may have an easement that allows them to cross your property to access their land, or a municipal government may have an easement to build and maintain utility lines on your land.
What to Do in a Boundary Dispute
As mentioned above, boundary disputes are a type of title dispute in which two neighboring landowners can’t agree about who owns a particular part of their respective lands. Historical use, natural terrain features, and fence lines may contribute to this misunderstanding. The problem becomes even more complicated when one builds a structure, such as a home on the disputed part of the land.
If you find yourself involved in a boundary dispute, here is some guidance on handling the situation effectively.
1. Have the Land Surveyed
The first step in resolving the dispute is to determine where the official property lines are by commissioning a property survey. The surveyor will examine county records and plot out an accurate map of what you factually own.
2. Try to Come to an Agreement with Your Neighbor
It’s best to come to an amicable agreement with your neighbor if possible. This may be as simple as building a new fence or agreeing to stay off the property. However, some agreements, such as the granting of an easement, should be formalized in writing.
3. Bring in a Mediator
Sometimes, you may not be able to agree on your own, especially if structures are involved. Bringing in an outside mediator can often help both sides reach a reasonable resolution.
Obviously, litigation is not anyone’s first choice; it’s expensive, time-consuming, and can breed animosity. In some situations, however, litigation may be your only recourse. If you haven’t already hired an attorney, you definitely should at this point.
Talk to a California Real Estate Lawyer
Real estate title disputes can be tricky to unravel, and they are best handled with the help of a real estate dispute attorney. Having a lawyer’s help can often prevent the situation from escalating and will ensure that your rights as a property owner are protected. To discuss your situation with an experienced professional and figure out how to move forward, contact our office today.