Boundary Disputes: Preserving Property and Neighbor Relationships

We all want to have amiable relationships with our neighbors, but property disputes can test those relationships. Without a previously existing fence, it can be hard to determine just who owns that beautiful old tree that needs costly pruning to prevent roof damage. The decision to put up a privacy fence can create tension between two people, as well, if the line between the properties is unclear.

If one of your neighbors wants to put up a new driveway, fence or other structure, it’s a good idea to visit the county clerk’s office and request a copy of the survey of your property. Surveys contain the exact measurements of your property boundaries. Sharing that information with your neighbor before construction begins can save you both a lot of money and help you avoid potential disputes.

After having their property surveyed, many people are surprised to discover that existing fences don’t reflect their actual property boundaries. Such discrepancies can result in title companies refusing to issue insurance when you try to sell your home. Sometimes, there can be multiple survey maps that conflict with each other, and you may have to hire a surveyor to determine which one is correct. In the event of a boundary dispute, having an accurate survey of the property increases the number of options you have for finding a resolution. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the legal processes associated with each of them.

You shouldn’t wait to take action: Several states allow their residents to take prescriptive easement or adverse possession actions. These claims permit a person who has used someone else’s land for a specific time period to gain the legal right to continue to use it, or even gain ownership of it. If you want to consent to your neighbor’s use of your land, you can avoid such a claim by giving them written permission to use it.

If both parties can agree where the boundary should be, they can make a lot line agreement if the conditions don’t violate any local zoning or subdivision laws. To make the agreement official, both parties must sign deeds that accurately describe the agreed-upon property line. The deeds must then be filed with the county land records office to give notice to future potential buyers of the new property boundaries.

If your neighbor has a fence, driveway or other structure that encroaches on your property, you could sell that portion of the property, which requires approval from your mortgage lender. If you can’t reach an agreement, an experienced mediator can help you avoid an ejectment action as well as preserve a valuable good-neighbor relationship.