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Questions on Land Rights Laws

Through land rights, individuals may own, possess and utilize land in any manner that does not infringe on the rights of others. Land rights are socially and legally recognized as lawful claims on the land and the right to enjoy the benefits and produce of that land. Generally, land laws are based on the cultural traditions and social acceptance of the local region. For this reason, land rights may vary from state to state. Below, Legal Experts answer some of the top questions on land rights.

When we sold our land in West Virginia, could we have also sold the mineral rights even though there is a separate deed for those rights?

Generally, if you own both the land and the mineral rights, you would end up selling the mineral rights along with the land rights unless the mineral rights are specifically reserved in the sale deed. In your case, it seems like your deed was silent regarding mineral rights, which means you would have transferred it along with the property.

My neighbor is fencing his land and is running heavy machinery which is causing damage to trees on both sides of the fence within 10 feet of the work. These trees could die in the years to come. What is our legal recourse?

In this particular case, you may pursue a claim for damages to your personal property if trees on your land have been damaged. However, this may be hard to pursue if the trees are not already showing damage. You may also file a suit for “private nuisance”, where you would have to establish that there was substantial and unreasonable interference with your land rights based on the noise generated by the machinery and inconsiderate behavior on the part of your neighbor.

Finally, you may file a suit for “public nuisance” along with other neighbors affected. This would be based on injury caused to the community as a whole where you can claim both court and equity remedies—actual financial damages as well as an action restricting further damage to trees belonging to the neighbors.

My neighbor in Rhode Island has been expanding his apple orchard every year and this spring, about 75 x 50 ft of my land was leveled in the process. What action can I pursue?

You must take steps now to safeguard your land against “Adverse Possession”, which your neighbor can legally claim after 10 years of using your land as his own. To do this, you must first get your land surveyed and pinned to clearly demarcate the land belonging to you. Post this, if you find that your neighbor has trespassed on your property, you may file a civil action against him for damages which could include restoring your property to its original condition.

Is “Eminent Domain” absolute over “Patented Land”? Can the State or local government take my land under “Eminent Domain” to build a road?

The Supreme Court of the United States of America has declared that the government has the absolute right to take any property and is restricted only by the 5th Amendment. This states that private property must be taken for public use and private owners are entitled to “just compensation” in exchange.

Perhaps, what you are referring to as patented land may be the concept of “Allodial Title—the inherent right of an individual to his/her land that only God can take away. This concept is no longer relevant under modern constitutional or real property laws. It follows that “Eminent Domain” wins over a land patent wherever a public use is contemplated by the government.

A real estate agent has recently moved the fence line over the land owned by us for 50 plus years and claimed it according to the new survey. Is this legal?

Any claim to the land is determined by the title document, deeds and surveys and not by placing a fence over the land and unilaterally claiming it. You may pursue the matter in court through an application to declare your rights in the disputed land and identify the boundaries.

Land rights can be claimed through actual ownership or through usufruct, where you have the right to enjoy another’s property without causing damage to it. Inheritance, land purchase, tenancy arrangements, transfers from the State, etc. are constructs of land rights. If you have questions on land laws and rights, you may benefit from writing to Legal Experts.
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