What happens when two deeds "own" the same property?
April 24, 2009 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm worried that my neighbor might actually own my property! While my property deed says that I own my property, my neighbors deed also shows that he owns my property. I found this out while researching the history of my property and looking through land records.

Long story short, 100 years ago, my plat was 160ft by 90 ft. 50 years ago, it was split into two properties, each of equal size. While my deed shows that I own half of the original property (80x90), the neighbors deed shows that he owns the full original property still (160x90). Both of our deeds are relatively new, well after the split was done 50 years ago.

Is this a common oversight when deeds are drawn up? Someone just copied and pasted the text from the previous deed without realizing that the property had been split? Could my neighbor legally come after me and kick me off of my land?

YANML and I'm going to see a lawyer about my will next week and will ask them about it then, but would like to get the hivemind opinion on this. I'm in the US and MD.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you have a title search done when you bought the house? I would look to that for additional information and possible protection.
posted by Houstonian at 4:03 PM on April 24, 2009

Sounds like something you should take up with the title company that you dealt with during closing.
posted by dersins at 4:11 PM on April 24, 2009

How long have you been there? You could have adverse possession (squatter's rights). I doubt any court would "kick you off your land," especially if that property is clearly demarcated.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:30 PM on April 24, 2009

You're about to enter the wonderful world of adverse possession!! Have you told your neighbor about it? If you're friendly you might want to drop by and mention they can expect letters from a lawyer about an old glitch in the deeds. With a lawyer to fix the paperwork, everything will probably be fine for you.
posted by motsque at 4:44 PM on April 24, 2009

Please, don't get legal advice from the internet. Assemble all the documentation of title that you have, especially any past documentation of title insurance coverage, and get a lawyer ASAP.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:51 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not your attorney, but I'm pretty darned good with title work and real estate issues.

Most likely there was a Scribner's Error on your neighbor's deed. It's more common than you might think and seems to have gotten more common with the advent of cut'n'paste technology.

So long as you purchased title insurance when you bought the property, you needn't worry about losing your property. Contact the agency that did your title work and issued the title insurance; it's on them to clear this up, if indeed there is an issue to be cleared.

If you didn't purchase title insurance when you purchased the property (an event that is virtually impossible if you borrowed money), then you could contact an attorney about this.

No matter what, though, your neighbor won't be able to just evict you. You have documentation showing you own that property; the fact that his deed includes your property just creates a paperwork issue. Adverse possession won't even factor into it.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 4:58 PM on April 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Just to reiterate: if you have title insurance, don't hire your own attorney unless the title insurer refuses to fix things. This is the sort of thing that title insurance covers; don't waste money on an attorney yet!
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 5:00 PM on April 24, 2009

We have a scribner's error where the address of my parents' residence is now attached to the deed for a rental property across the block. (The property description is correct, though.) It happens. Occasionally, it results in headaches.

That said, I would read your neighbor's deed very carefully. You may have missed a subtle bit where it says something like "the north half of", then continues to describe the entire original plat. In most cases that original description needs to be included, regardless of whether the plat has since been subdivided. Draw it out step by step on a sheet of paper.
posted by dhartung at 10:04 PM on April 24, 2009

I would talk to your lawyer next week and ignore advice in the meantime. LOLattorney might be correct; then again, he might not. Everything I learned in my property law class makes me think he's wrong. Then again, property law (at least what they teach you about it in law school) seems to have very little semblance to reality. I'm told no one uses adverse possession in the real world, yet it's half the exam in property. That and the rule against perpetuities. Anyway, I know it's nice to get some idea of what your lawyer might say in advance (which is probably why you posted this question) but I hope this thread doesn't make you cancel your appointment with him.
posted by Happydaz at 10:20 PM on April 24, 2009

You should probably talk to a lawyer. You should absolutely gather up all of your title-insurance paperwork.
posted by oaf at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2009

The referenced error, by the way, is a "scrivener's error". Has nothing to do with the book publisher.
posted by yclipse at 10:06 AM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

The error can be either a scribner's or a scrivener's error. The terms are used interchangeably by attorneys and the courts. It seems that the spelling difference is a regional thing, perhaps related, originally, to accents.

Happydaz, what you learned in Property Law Class is only a basis in property law, which is slightly different from real estate law. Once upon a time, I was a peon for a title insurance company, which is where I learned about clerical errors and how to correct them. Since then, I've litigated real estate matters and have handled thousands of real estate transactions.

Also, the OP stated that he has an appointment with his attorney to go over his will, so my recommendation won't cause the OP to cancel that appointment.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2009

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