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Resolving Boundary Disputes

Boundary lines between properties are described in the property description in your deed. Before you build a fence or any other structure on your land which is near or on the boundary separating your property from your neighbor’s property, you need to be certain of your property’s boundary lines. If you mistakenly build a fence on your neighbor’s property, you could be responsible for trespassing and a court could make you tear down the fence. If you are unsure as to where the boundary lies between your property and that of your neighbor’s property, there are several things you can do to resolve the problem.

If a survey was done when you purchased the property, this description of the property would show your actual boundary lines. Often, however, there are cases where the description of a property was originally recorded many years ago, even decades ago, and that description may not be entirely accurate. The property description on your deed is normally in metes and bounds, by a government survey system, or by a reference to a recorded map. It may not detail boundaries that a survey would reveal.

One solution is to order an up-dated survey which would reveal the actual boundary lines. Another alternative would be to file a quiet title lawsuit whereby you would ask a judge to determine the boundary lines of your property. This procedure is generally more expensive than a survey due to the legal filing fees. A less expensive alternative would be to meet with your neighbor and to agree on a physical object, such as a fence or a large tree which would serve as the boundary line between your two properties. You and your neighbor would then sign a quitclaim deed and grant to the other neighbor ownership to any land on the other side of the line you had agreed upon.

If you neighbor starts building on property which you feel is on your land, you would need to notify your neighbor immediately. If construction is allowed to continue, you could risk giving up your right to that part of your land. By a procedure called prescriptive easement, the court allows a party using your land, if uncontested for a specified number of years, the right to the use of that land indefinitely.

If you obtained a mortgage when your purchased your property, the lender generally requires that a survey be performed. It is always wise to walk the property,with survey in hand, prior to closing on the property. You may not anticipate adding a fence or other structure at the time of purchase, but you may want to in the future, and determining your exact boundary lines at the time of purchase will prevent any potential problems.

Related Question

What is the difference between an appraisal and a survey?

An appraisal assesses the value of the house and property, using comparable sales and market value, whereas a survey determines the land boundaries of the property. An appraisal will assist the lender to determine if the loan should be made and for what amount. A survey will disclose whether there are any encroachments on the property by neighbors and the extent to which any easements on the property may affect legal title. Both types of property reports will require a physical inspection of the property by a licensed professional, acceptable to the lender. It has become common practice for lenders to require both types of inspections, to be certain their interest in the property is protected.

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