5 Tips to Becoming A More Informed Property Owner

The ownership of private property is one of our most cherished freedoms.
Property divides power between the government and the individual and allows
citizens to be rewarded for their own industry. But to fully enjoy the benefits of
property ownership, knowledge and vigilance is required. Knowledge regarding
the scope and extent of one’s property rights and vigilance in defending and
protecting those rights when they are being threatened.

In instances where either private or public actors are seeking to challenge your
property rights, be prepared to defend yourself by knowing, in advance, what
your rights are or by consulting with an experienced real estate or eminent domain lawyer. Following these tips will also help you better protect your interests as a
property owner.

Know Your Rights

When you own real property, you have a bundle of legal rights that go along with that ownership, including:

The right of possession
The right of control
The right of exclusion
The right to derive income
The right of disposition

Property rights can also extend to surface rights (the right to use the surface of
the land), riparian rights (the right to any water on your property), subsurface
rights (the right to use what is below the surface, such as oil, gas, and minerals), and air rights (the right to the area immediately above your property). Of course, these rights have exceptions and limitations, and also may come with legal obligations (e.g., taxes). They may also be lost, voluntarily transferred or even regained after a period of time, such as when you rent a portion of your property and the lease terminates. Property rights may also vary from state to state and from community to community. They may be subject to local, state and federal laws. Knowing your rights as a property owner makes you more aware of what you can or cannot do with your property, and how to protect it from intrusions or encroachments.

Familiarize Yourself with the Core Title Documents

There are many documents that contain vital information about a landowner’s
property and the extent of their ownership rights. Among these documents, some of the most important and typical ones are the following:

The Deed and other documents of title and exceptions to title, such as an

The Deed of Trust or other documents showing that the property has been
mortgaged or collateralized for payment of a debt

Survey and boundary documents

Zoning maps and master plans

Some of the terminology in these documents may be difficult to understand for a non-lawyer. But it is still in an owner’s interest to review them in order to develop a basic understanding of property rights and obligations. If you don’t have a copy of some of these documents, you may be able to get them from your title insurance company, county clerk and recorder’s office, or the local land use and planning department.

Go Through the Deed to the Property

Property deeds are signed legal documents that transfer the ownership of the
real property from one person to another. For the deed to be legally operative, it
must identify both the grantor/seller and the grantee/buyer and contain an
adequate description of the property, among other elements.

There are different types of deeds, each type providing different levels of
protection to the grantee, as well as the obligation of the grantor. Deeds also
typically include deed restrictions, which are important in understanding the
extent of the owner’s use and enjoyment of the property.

Understand the Title Documents

Title documents prove the ownership or control and possession of a person over
specific property or a parcel of land.

Aside from establishing ownership, however, title documents also disclose liens, defects, deed restrictions, and exceptions to title that affect the property. Reading and understanding these documents will give you an insight into the limitations and exceptions that apply to your ownership of the property.

Consult with A Real Property or Eminent Domain Attorney

Anytime you encounter issues concerning your property rights, whether it’s a
defect in the title or a potential taking due to an act of eminent domain, seek the
professional advice of a real estate or eminent domain attorney before taking any further steps.

Regardless or the type of property you own or property-related issues you’re
faced with, these professionals can help shed light on the situation and steer you towards a more favorable outcome.

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