“Mind If I Play Through?”
by David Walker, ILTA Past President
While title claims are often no laughing matter, every now and then you hear of one that makes you appreciate the product we offer and protection it affords, even if sometimes the situation is somewhat humorous. Not all claims have to end badly.
This one happens to involve one of my brothers. Many years ago, my brother John and his wife Kathy bought a nice little home on the shores of Lake Ontario. Actually, the house itself wasn’t directly on the shoreline, it was across the street, but the property did include a small piece of land on the other side of the Watoma Beach Road. It was a bit awkwardly shaped and wasn’t all completely on the shore, but you could put a swing out there and enjoy the sunset.
One day, John noticed the neighbors to the left of their small shoreline property “bumping out” what was their living room. John didn’t seem to think anything of it but he did notice it was a bit closer to his awkward beach access than he would have preferred. Nonetheless, he filed it away in the back of his mind; too many other things to worry about with his own house. There’s always something to fix or clean, especially when you live on a lake the size of Lake Ontario. The weather can be a bit harsh.
As the addition neared completion, John got to thinking. He had remembered that his property came with an easement that allowed him to reach the beach from his small yet awkward little piece of land. He thought he had remembered it was adjacent to the property where the expanded living room was going up. So he decided to pull out the deed, survey and title policy from when he purchased (a rarity, many people never keep such documents!). Sure enough, he read about an easement that ran to the lake and it sure seemed that the new living room was being built right on top of it.
One Saturday soon after, he decided to share his discovery with the neighbors. They were certainly surprised to hear about his discovery. Had they hired a surveyor before building? Did they have a title policy that identified the easement? Sadly, neither was the case. Not wanting to be a bad neighbor, John calmly shared a couple of ideas that might solve the problem. He suggested that they could either provide his family a key to the new front door, so they could keep their access to the beach or perhaps they would be willing to deed to him a small sliver of their beachfront property which would square off his awkward little piece and allow him to build a little boat launch on his shoreline.
While this wasn’t a “life or death” situation, it is one more story of how we insure the right to home ownership and protect the owner’s right to use the property as intended. A little upfront effort, the purchase of an owner’s policy and all that that process entails, can identify issues to be avoided or protected in the future. Tell your story.
By the way, it’s a beautiful little boat launch.