We have all heard the familiar saying, ‘Good fences make for good neighbors’. But, what happens when you and your neighbor have a difference of opinion about who owns the land that you want to place that fence on?
Real estate boundary disputes may arise when the original recorded property lines are vague, or the shape of the land has changed over time due to land erosion, tree line growth, or the formation or addition of a natural body of water. Oftentimes these blurred boundaries and encroachments may go unnoticed for decades until an event occurs that calls the property boundaries into question.
Because boundary disputes often involve more than one party attempting to maintain possession and use of the same portion of land, tensions can escalate quickly. Enlisting the assistance of a qualified real estate attorney will help ensure that the matter is resolved efficiently and fairly before animosity has a chance to make an unpleasant situation worse.
Establishing Property Lines
The first step in any real estate boundary dispute is the establishment of fact. Your real estate attorney will seek to determine the official recorded property lines pertaining to the disputed property. These official property lines may be recorded in the state or county records, original deeds, and other official recorded documents.
In the best case scenario, one or more of these official documents may provide the rock solid evidence needed to clearly show where the boundary of the property lies. However, it is not uncommon for recorded deeds to present conflicting information, or historic parcel maps to fail to align with updated topography making the boundary lines more difficult to determine.
Property Line Encroachment
In many cases the property lines may become blurred over a long period of time as man made or natural features belonging to the neighboring property owner begin to encroach onto an adjacent property. If the encroachment is subtle or gradual it may continue unnoticed until it begins to have a physical impact on the use or enjoyment of the property which is being encroached upon.
Encroachment can occur when the owner of a neighboring property has, either intentionally, or unintentionally, constructed a shed, fence, pathway, deck, or other structure which breaches the property lines of the adjacent property. Adding to the confusion, the encroaching structure may have been built by a previous property owner who then did not disclose the encroachment to the new owner when the property was sold. If one or both properties have changed hands since the original encroachment occurred the boundary dispute can require a great deal of research, and communication to resolve.
Natural encroachment may occur as well, this type of encroachment is not caused by the direct actions of either neighbor, however it can be just as disruptive as man-made encroachment. Natural encroachment occurs when the natural features of one property such as large trees, shrubbery, ponds, or creeks naturally shift and begin to infiltrate the neighboring property. The large overhanging branches, and long invasive roots of several species of tree can cause immense property damage to the neighboring property and frequently lead to heated disputes over who is responsible for the costly repairs required to repair the damage and prevent future problems.
Boundary Dispute Resolution
Regardless of the nature of the dispute it is in your best interest to contact an experienced real estate attorney as soon as boundary issues arise. A real estate attorney will be able to sit down with you and discuss the pros and cons of the options available to you in resolving your boundary dispute.
The first step will be to conduct a thorough record search to establish the original property lines for the property in question. A surveyor should then be enlisted to conduct a professional survey of the land and verify the precise location of the official property lines to verify that an issue exists and the extent of the encroachment, if any.
Once the official property lines have been established your real estate attorney will draw up and send an official letter to the other party notifying them of the details of the boundary dispute, presenting the established facts, and requesting that they remedy the situation within a specified amount of time.
If the other party fails to respond, or refuses to remedy the boundary dispute then the matter will need to be presented to a judge in a court of law. Having an experienced real estate attorney in your corner from the outset of a boundary dispute is instrumental in achieving an efficient, and satisfactory resolution and ultimately preserving the good will between neighbors.
Contact Us Today!
To learn more about your options as a property owner attempting to resolve a potential boundary dispute please contact Real Estate Lawyer Rebbeca Valk in Poughkeepsie today. We are here to help!