If you’re sick of your neighbor overstepping your property line or insisting that X, Y, or Z isn’t his problem because it’s technically on “your” property, not theirs, you may wind up in a boundary dispute. Alternatively, bad deeds, unrecorded deeds, or adverse possession issues may also trigger boundary disputes. You may need to take steps towards consulting a real estate attorney about property law to get everything straightened out. They can help you gather the facts about how the dispute began, begin discussions (and potentially negotiations with your neighbor), find alternatives to bringing the case to court, and pursue legal recourse if an agreement or settlement can’t be reached. You don’t want to sue without knowing every facet of the issue and your attorney can assist in making sure your suit is watertight and strong.
What Can Spark a Boundary Dispute?
Your property line or boundary is the “line” that defines your parcel of land from your neighbors’. They’re usually parceled out on the county’s tax map and can be both natural boundaries, like bodies of water or roads or man-made. However, property lines can get confused as the years go on, due to the evolution of the natural landscape, increased development, and other factors.
Deeds also aren’t always 100% accurate — and haven’t been since they were first drawn up. Even though the neighbors can agree on the legal description being accurate, one of the neighbors can have been on that particular piece of land for so long that they claim ownership (this is adverse possession). In other cases, there might be a number of deeds that weren’t recorded and give ownership of the same property to various people. Who gets the land, in that case?
What Do I Do If I’m in the Middle of a Boundary Dispute?
The first thing you want to do is make sure you have a full understanding of the root of the dispute and the circumstances surrounding it. To do so, you’ll need to get a survey, appraisal, and a full title search done, especially if you’re going to trial about the dispute. The survey will make sure that you know the physical location of your property’s boundary solely based on the legal description in your deed. A licensed surveyor will carry out the survey. This ensures there’s no confusion about where your boundaries are and how much land is actually involved in the dispute.
The appraisal provides the market value of the property and a title search will look up all the documents that have been recorded regarding the ownership of your property. After these are completed, you should also seek out a lawyer to assist you.
It’s then probably time to start discussing with your neighbor and seeing if you can come to some arrangement or agreement. Your lawyer may also open up communications with them on your behalf — a formal letter or correspondence from a lawyer often can have more of an impact. If no agreement can be reached, it’s probably time to head to court.
A quiet title lawsuit will ask that a judge lays out the boundary lines of the property. The court may also try mediation between you and your neighbor so you can come to a settlement without going to trial.
The last resort, of course, is going to trial, which can be massively costly and devastating if you lose, so you want to weigh your case carefully and consult with your attorney to make sure that it’s in your best interests to proceed.
Having a real estate lawyer on your side during a boundary dispute is incredibly helpful, especially if the other party brings in legal aid early. You have the benefit of their experience dealing with property law disputes and similar cases, as well as the influence having legal aid extends you, in negotiations and discussions with your neighbor.
They’ll also make sure that all the boxes are ticked off in terms of necessary preparation and be able to suggest the best course of action for you to take.