It’s always best to be on good terms with your neighbors. They can be a huge help in times of need, loan you that cup of sugar or another crucial ingredient, or even become your close friends and BBQ buddies.
Unfortunately, property boundary disputes occur all the time and have ruined many previously amicable neighborhood relationships. These situations happen for various reasons — but before things turn ugly, here’s exactly what you need to know about the causes of boundary disputes and how to solve them.
What’s the Problem?
Sometimes people just suddenly decide to complain about something that’s the same way it’s always been. When someone moves away and a new owner takes over, they could have been verbally promised things by overzealous sellers. There can frequently be mistakes when fences are laid or clerical errors during a previous sale of the property.
If your neighbor is encroaching on your property, even if it’s entirely unintentional, this can sometimes cause title issues later down the road. It can also have an effect on your homeowner’s insurance if someone is injured on the disputed land.
Minor encroachments that are non-permanent, such as plants, flower beds, or lawns, are rarely a big deal and can be easily fixed or just ignored.
However, major ones are often a serious problem. Large trees with heavy branches over someone else’s home, improperly located workshops or sheds, or parts of the home that overhang a property line are examples of big red flags that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Once you identify the exact nature of the boundary dispute, the next step is to do your due diligence and arm yourself with the available facts.
Check the Records
Start by checking your mortgage paperwork and your community’s online property records. Previous deeds, land surveys, and title clearances will hopefully provide the proof you need to immediately end any boundary dispute in your favor so you can get the problem resolved quickly.
In certain cases though, records are incomplete or missing, or conflicting ones can exist. If you’ve inherited property or it was purchased many years ago, you may want to hire a firm to perform a new title search.
During this process, a team of highly trained and experienced pros will comb through any and all existing records regarding your property, searching for possible encumbrances like easements, liens, or outstanding legal judgments against the previous property owner.
A free and clear title search makes it extremely difficult for anyone to challenge your ownership of that property in court.
If you’re in the process of purchasing this property, now is the time to talk to your real estate team about whether you should purchase title insurance. While you do have to pay a moderate up-front fee, this simple insurance policy can save you an enormous amount of money and headaches when faced with annoying problems like boundary disputes.
Hire a Pro
It’s smart to get a thorough property survey done as soon as possible if there hasn’t been one recently or if the records are incomplete or missing.
The best way to find a reputable local surveying company in your area is through the National Society of Professional Surveyors. Their website has a state-by-state list of licensed companies that perform an array of different surveying services. Your title company or real estate agent should also be able to recommend a surveyor through their network.
Land surveys can take anywhere from a few days up to three weeks, depending on factors like the size of the property, the topography, weather, and utility installations.
Your completed survey will clearly show the boundaries and details of your property, and a clear title means no one else has any right to it. So what do you do if someone is still trying to claim it as their own?
Always begin by just asking nicely. If your neighbor just refused to believe they were in the wrong, present them with the survey documentation and title clearance. This legal paperwork should be enough to settle any dispute in an orderly fashion, and hopefully, everyone can come to an agreement on how to get over it and get back to having cookouts.
In the event that your neighbor still won’t give up, are you willing to negotiate? Perhaps there is a solution that will work for both parties and everyone involved can go back to being friends.
If things begin to escalate, you also always have the option of consulting a skilled and knowledgeable real estate attorney who specializes in boundary disputes.
While no one wants to go to court, you also don’t want to be the victim of an adverse possession claim. What happens when someone has been using your property for so long that they consider it to be theirs and they won’t give it up or stop trespassing?
Here is where sound legal advice is a real life saver. Your lawyer can send letters and threaten to file a lawsuit, which is sometimes all it takes to end a property dispute.
They can also gather the documentation from the survey, title search, and property appraisal to present before a judge and seek an injunction against the encroachment or an eviction. Your real estate attorney will guide you through the complex process of getting this problem solved for good through the court system.
Get Peace of Mind
Boundary disputes and property line arguments are as old as civilization itself. While they can happen just about anywhere and between even the chummiest of neighbors, you don’t have to let these kinds of issues get out of hand.
Having a qualified real estate team on your side will help ensure that you have the support you need whenever you’re faced with these types of challenges. At Landtrust Title Services, we not only provide a full spectrum of services for buyers and sellers but we also offer personalized and compassionate customer service for every individual client.
If you have any questions about title clearance, real estate agents, or how to begin the process of buying your first home, reach out to us today!