Issues concerning ownership and property boundaries may be brought before the Massachusetts Land Court to decide. In an October 10, 2019 Massachusetts real estate case, multiple parties brought competing claims regarding their respective rights to a section of marshland on the coast of a peninsula. The parties involved in the case were three neighbors who each owned separate properties that abutted the disputed area, and the local town.
The area in dispute was a strip of land between the high-water mark and the low water mark along a section of the coast of a peninsula. The area itself was a salt marsh, covered in tall grass, deep mud, and completely underwater at high tide. As such, it was unsuitable for use as a beach and enjoyed primarily as an area to look out over to see sunrises, bird migrations, and boats in the bay.
To determine the ownership issues, the Land Court first investigated the history of the initial partition and examined the descriptions contained the original deeds to the parties’ properties. At one time, all of the land in the peninsula was communally owned by a Native American tribe. In the mid-1800s, most of the land was partitioned into several tracts, with the exception of the marshland around the coast. Years later, the marshland was gradually divided, and then subdivided into smaller set-offs. The set-off descriptions in the deeds allowed the court to find that one of the plaintiffs held record title to part of the disputed area. The court went on to identify the boundaries and record title locations of the marsh areas owned by the rest of the plaintiffs.