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Boundary Issues in Real Estate – Use It or Lose It

Ownership of real estate in Louisiana may be acquired by 30 years possession.  A 2005 case illustrates how a good deed came back to hurt a former owner.   House and Fence

In the case both parties owned property adjacent to each other in the City of New Orleans on Metairie Road.  In 1951, Lee the defendant, built a building near his property line with the plaintiff, from which he operated a dry cleaning business.  His customers and employees used a triangular shaped piece of land as a parking area.  All parties agreed the triangular parking area was not on Lee’s land, but on land that originally belonged to the plaintiff.

At trial various customers testified to having parked on the lot.  The plaintiffs agreed that they knew the parking area was being used by the Lees, but did not complain because they were trying to be neighborly.  There is a saying about good deeds coming back to hurt you.

The Court ruled that the Lee’s possession of the parking area was continuous, uninterrupted, public, unequivocal and within visible bounds.  Since it continued for more than 30 years the Court held that Lee acquired ownership of the triangular area by acquisitive prescription.

The Court concluded that although the plaintiffs were aware of the Lees use of the land, they made no formal attempt to stop the use by the Lees until filing suit, some 47 years later.    903 So.2d 661

 

Tax Sales – How do they work?

JohnMenszer-1060877In New Orleans Tax Sales are conducted by online auctions. The price is set at the amount of taxes owed, plus costs. The bidder who offers the least percentage of ownership wins. The city issues the winning bidder a tax sale certificate who becomes the tax sale purchaser and holds a tax sale title.

Tip: Never bid less than 100% ownership, just to get the property. I know you want the winning bid. However, if you decide to quiet the title later, owning less than 100% can be a nightmare. It won’t be worth it. Don’t do it.

Keep in mind that what you bid is just your initial investment. You will have to pay subsequent years property taxes to maintain your interest in the property. And you may have additional costs to keep the grass cut and avoid environmental liens.

The owners have up to three years from the day the tax sale is filed in the public records to redeem the property. In order to redeem the owners must pay tax sale purchaser the amount of taxes paid, plus a 5% penalty and 1% interest per month (12% per year).

After the redemption period is over (if the owners have not redeemed) the tax sale purchaser becomes the owner and can file suit to quiet the title. The goal of a suit to quiet title is to have the courts recognize the rights of the tax sale purchaser.