Land title disputes take many forms. They can be as simple as a disagreement over a shared driveway or as complex as a Native American claim of ownership. Here are some of the more common ones:
Boundary Disputes: Probably the most common, a Boundary Dispute involves a disagreement between adjoining landowners about the location of the line between the lands. They most commonly arise following the erection of a fence, the planting of trees or hedges, or the construction of an accessory structure, like a barn or a shed.
Adverse Possession: An Adverse Possession dispute can arise when one party claims that they have been in actual possession of a parcel of land for more than ten years, making them the owner. This type of dispute may occur when one of the parties claims under a deed with a defective description, or when the last person to record a deed dies and someone else takes possession of the land.
Rights of Way: Right of Way disputes frequently happen when there is an old road in the neighborhood and no one is sure who owns it or who has formal rights to use it. This type of dispute can also arise when a larger parcel is subdivided and the right to use privately owned roads, paths or alleyways comes into question. Shared driveways and parking lots are also common sources of right of way disagreements.
Beach/Water Access: Beach Access disputes are occurring all across the United States. They usually revolve around the rights of waterfront owners to control the portion of the beach above the high tide line. They can also involve attempts to gain access to beach areas or navigable waters across privately owned land.
Unknown Owners: While not necessarily a “dispute,” an “Unknown Owner Parcel” is one whose current ownership cannot be determined without extensive legal, historical and/or genealogical research. The issue of Unknown Owners is a legacy of Long Island’s lengthy history and haphazard development. An owner may die without immediate family. A large-scale development project might be completed without using all the land originally acquired. Or, a surveying or description error might go unnoticed over a long period of time.
Tax Titles: When a local taxing authority takes and sells a parcel for non-payment of real estate taxes, it is required to follow detailed legal procedures. Errors in these procedures can lead to the improper sale of a parcel.
Riparian/Littoral Rights: These are special rights that waterfront property owners enjoy. They frequently give rise to disputes involving docking or mooring of boats, recreational waterborne activities, dredging and fishing.
Tree Encroachments: The limbs, trunk or roots of trees near or on a property boundary can grow onto an adjoining lot. This can create a dangerous or unsightly condition. Who owns the tree? Does the other party have any rights?
Private Cemetaries/Burial Grounds: Long Island is dotted with small private cemetaries which can date back to the colonial era. As the descendants of those interred disperse or, in some cases, multiply, questions frequently arise about ownership of these lands and the attendant responsibility for their upkeep.