Q: I bought the house, and land; not included were two small barns; with underground electric fed from the house.
I bought the house from the ex-wife; the ex-husband apparently owned the two small barns on the small adjoining lot; with shared utilities from the house. I've been told by a realtor that the small lots cannot be separated from the main property in this way by the previous owner divorcees. I was told that on grounds of some legality I may own both lots; and I may also have been paying state and county taxes for both lots. The ex-husband once volunteered to me that he pays a total of $300 a year for state property tax on his portion of the two lots. I pay approximal $3000. The previous owners were very shrewd. I know I bought a pig in a poke. I just would like to know where the law stands. Thanks
A: The law doesn’t “stand” anywhere. Your presumably discount purchase and closing resolves who owns what. Get a lawyer to read and interpret your deed and then look to the title insurance to defend your deed. If you have neither a recorded deed nor title insurance, your payment of taxes is likely irrelevant. What the seller’s ex says is very close to irrelevant.
A: A lawyer would need to look at the deeds to both lots, and ascertain who owns what, and any recorded easements, rights of way, etc., that affect either lot. From your description, it sounds as though the realtor believes the "two" lots were once (or currently are) part of a single lot and were purportedly subdivided at some point, perhaps illegally or not in accordance with the law. That is unclear, but a realtor is not a lawyer, and you will need to get more specifics as to why the realtor holds this opinion. If the lot where the barns are located is landlocked and has no independent access to a public road, then there will be an implied easement or right-of-way by law across your lot to allow access. The exact location and dimensions of such an easement or right-of-way, if not spelled out in your deed, can be established by agreement of the two owners, or through a court action by a judge. I have never heard of an easement requiring maintenance of electrical service by an adjoining lot, so as far as that goes, unless there is something you agreed to, I would cut that service off and stop paying for it. If the lot is not owned by you, you should also not be paying taxes on it. Take a look at how the lots are assessed by SDAT. If the assessed parcel covers both purported lots, then you are paying all the taxes and SDAT does not recognize them as legally independent lots. Somebody with legal expertise needs to be retained by you to ascertain the situation. You will not get your answers by asking questions on this forum.
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