Rarely does a property owner know “exactly” where his or her boundary line exists. At some point in the past, large estates were owned by a few wealthy families. Today, with the dream of home ownership for all, parcels have become smaller and smaller, being split over years and decades. With all of these subdivisions of land, a deed was authored, and a land survey may have been drawn to show the boundaries. But as those land surveys age, property monuments are lost, tress that marked corners are cut down or died, and the evidence of the boundary becomes fainter and fainter.
The land owners may not be able to show you where their monuments lie, but bushes are still planted, grass is still cut, and private fences & roads are still maintained. Whether the “right landowner” is cutting “his grass” or not is often unclear. Many of my clients purchase property and then soon realize that what they thought they owned – by looking at a fence line or tree line – is often different from the true boundaries. But despite these boundary questions, rarely does neighbor file a civil suit against neighbor either because of the expense or because they are just trying to get along by not causing trouble.
Instead, if land owners would like to remove the ambiguity and re-locate their common boundary, a boundary line agreement is a viable option. But poorly boundary line agreements will cause more havoc than the ambiguity if not properly memorialized. Every boundary line agreement should be drafted by an attorney or other professional. Furthermore, every boundary line agreement should have its legal description either written by or reviewed by a Professional Land Surveyor. Finally, every boundary line agreement, once drafted, should be surveyed on-the-ground by a Professional Land Surveyor with monuments being either found or set by the Surveyor. I have personally seen the devastating effects of a poorly written boundary line agreement on the property owners. Do not create one yourself, seek professional help.
Similar to a boundary line agreement is a boundary line adjustment. Why would someone want to “adjust” the boundary with their neighbors? Many reasons including:
• One neighbor wants access to a lake, stream, or ocean shoreline
• One neighbor needs extra land for farming, ranching, or recreation
• One neighbor is cut-off from accessing a road or other right-of-way
No matter the reason, a boundary line adjustment is nothing more than a contract for the sale of land. Each element of the Statute of Frauds must be met, including a valid legal description, and some type of compensation must be paid for the extra land being deeded to the grantee.
Be careful of boundary line adjustments because transferring property within a city or county may trigger various subdivision or zoning requirements including plats being reviewed by the planning board or alike. boundary line agreements typically do not trigger this requirement.
In addition to boundary line adjustments and boundary line agreements, landowners that have possessed property for a period of time may have defenses to a claim of trespass. All of these defenses such as acquiescence, estoppel, etc., will be discussed in a future article.
Thank You for Reading! Watch the video below for more information on Boundary Line Agreements with Dr. Nettleman!