How to Dispute Existing Property Boundaries

Five Parts:Defining Your Property LinesApproaching Your NeighborDrafting a Legal AgreementBringing a LawsuitGoing to Court

Your real property (i.e., your land) is one of the most important pieces of property you own. Real property is often hard to define because it does not always follow clear boundaries or lines. Therefore, property boundary disputes are relatively common. These disputes often arise when a neighbor encroaches on what you think is your property, or when your neighbor accuses you of encroaching on what they think is their property. If you find yourself in an existing property boundary dispute with a neighbor, work to define your property lines and resolve the dispute outside of court. However, if all else fails, you may have to bring legal action to quiet title and determine legal property boundaries.

Part 1
Defining Your Property Lines

  1. Image titled Invest Small Amounts of Money Wisely Step 11
    Track down existing survey maps. If you think your neighbor has the wrong understanding of the property boundary abutting your property, the first step to disputing your neighbor is to figure out exactly where the legal boundaries are. Most properties, including your own, likely have existing survey maps that have been recorded with your county's tax assessor or surveyor's office. Most of these maps can be found online on your county surveyor's website. For example, in Springfield, Oregon, you can find existing survey maps by:[1]
    • Visiting the Lane County Surveyor's office website
    • Typing in your address and clicking "search"
    • Writing down your map lot number
    • Searching for available maps
    • Viewing the maps you find
  2. Image titled Read a Land Survey Step 9
    Look for existing property markers. Once you obtain a copy of your survey map, you can use it to locate property markers, which are usually metal pins placed at every corner of your property, including whenever there is a change in the direction of your property line. However, you will not be able to simply show your neighbor your survey and resolve the issue. You will likely have to physically locate the markers and trace your boundary line. To do this you need to:[2]
    • Ensure you can dig safely in your yard by calling your utility company. Your utility company will come out and mark any power lines or other dangerous underground impediments. Do not dig where they mark.
    • Gather a metal detector, shovel, tape measure, and your survey map. These tools will be used to physically locate your markers.
    • Locate an initial marker. The easiest one to locate is usually near the street curb. Go to your front curb and measure backwards in the area you think the marker should be. Use the metal detector to search for the marker. When you find it, dig into the ground, usually about 6-10 inches, until you uncover the initial property marker.
    • Use your survey to determine the location of the rest of your markers. Uncover all of them.
    • Put some sort of stake or other identifying mark on each of your property markers. Never remove your property stakes under any circumstance.
  3. Image titled Stop Grandparents Visitation Rights Step 2
    Get a copy of your deed. If you cannot find an existing survey map, or if one does not exist, you can look to your deed for a legal description of your property's boundaries. A deed is required to contain a written description of your property, which may take one of many forms. The most common forms of boundary descriptions include:[3]
    • Metes and bounds, which identify lands by referencing natural or artificial boundaries such as streets, streams, or other peoples' property. The description will establish every side of your property through these descriptions.
    • Courses, which identify boundaries using calls. Each call will include a distance (length) and course (direction). For example, a valid call may state: "running thence north 100 feet to a point..." Follow each call to map out your property.
  4. Image titled Become a Surveyor Step 1
    Have your land surveyed. If you still cannot determine your property boundaries, call a private land surveyor to survey your land. Land surveyors are paid to determine property boundaries and prepare maps. The use of land surveyors can help settle property line disputes because their findings are usually legally binding.[4]
    • To hire a land surveyor, do a quick online search to find reputable companies close to you. Also, if you are wary of paying too much or being scammed, contact your county surveyor's office and ask for recommendations.
    • The cost of hiring a surveyor can range from $500 to over $1,000 depending on the complexity of the work.[5]

Part 2
Approaching Your Neighbor

  1. Image titled Find Things to Talk About Step 25
    Have an honest discussion with your neighbor. Once your property lines have been established (to your liking), you will need to approach your neighbor in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Set up a time to meet and present documents. When you meet with your neighbor, bring your legal documents, which will include your deed, survey maps, and photographs of the work you completed to find the legal property boundaries.
    • If your deeds or maps are unclear, or do not resolve the dispute, you might consider hiring a surveyor to conduct a joint survey of each property. If you have not already hired your own surveyor, this option could help you save money and resolve the neighborly dispute amicably.[6]
  2. Image titled Claim Compensation for Whiplash Step 36
    Hire a mediator. A mediator can help facilitate negotiations while staying away from adversarial proceedings. The mediator will sit down with you and your neighbor to discuss imaginative ways to resolve the property boundary dispute. For example, there may be a way your neighbor can rent or share the disputed property so that both parties win.[7]
    • In addition, you may allow your neighbor to use the disputed land so long as a written agreement exists stating the land is yours. This way, your neighbor can use the land but will not be able to make an adverse possession claim down the road.
    • Also, if your neighbor has already encroached on the disputed boundary, the neighbor may simply agree to remove the encroachment. However, the more permanent the encroachment is, the more difficult it will be to remove (e.g., a fence vs. a guest house).[8]
  3. Image titled Write a Jury Excuse Letter Step 6
    Send a demand letter. As a last resort before involving legal agreements and the courts, you might choose to Write a Demand Letter Instead of Hiring an Attorney. A demand letter should explain the situation you and your neighbor are in and should request action or a reasonable settlement. Your offer might include a compromise to divide the property at issue, modify other boundary lines to make up for the disputed property, or ask for a payment.
    • Be aware that your demand letter may scare your neighbor away from negotiating and wanting to handle the dispute outside of court. While demand letters can be effective, they can also create an adversarial atmosphere.[9]

Part 3
Drafting a Legal Agreement

  1. Image titled Become a College Professor Step 32
    Understand the dispute. Different disputes will require different types of lawyers and different substantive agreements. Try to pinpoint the subject matter of your dispute before moving forward. If you are having trouble doing this, a lawyer may be able to give you some general direction.
    • For example, if you are agreeing to sell the disputed land (i.e., move the property line in return for money), you will need to draft a real property purchase and sale agreement and hire a real estate lawyer.
    • If you are going to create an easement (i.e., allow your neighbor to use the disputed property without creating new boundaries), you will need a real estate lawyer who specializes in easement transactions.
    • If you and your neighbor are agreeing to move the property line, you can create a lot line agreement. Here you will need a real estate lawyer to help.
  2. Image titled Stop Grandparents Visitation Rights Step 3
    Hire a lawyer. Once you understand the type of dispute you have and the type of agreement you wish to make with your neighbor, you should hire an attorney to help you through the process. Even if you and your neighbor agree on everything, a lawyer is necessary to draft the correct language and make sure it is executed properly. To hire a lawyer, contact your state bar association's lawyer referral service. After answering a few general questions about your legal dispute, you will be put in contact with a number of qualified lawyers in your area.
    • Contact each candidate and set up an initial consultation. This is a meeting where you will be able to ask each lawyer about their work and your case. Make sure each lawyer feels comfortable handling the type of dispute you have and make sure the lawyer has handled similar cases in the past. If you are hiring a lawyer to draft an agreement or a new deed, you do not need a trial lawyer. If you are hiring a lawyer to go to court, you do not need a transactional lawyer. Be sure you ask how each lawyer charges for their services.
    • After the initial consultations, hire the lawyer that makes you feel most comfortable. The lawyer you hire should be cost-effective, trustworthy, and zealous.
  3. Image titled Cancel a Check Step 8
    Draft an agreement. After your lawyer has been hired, ask them to help you draft an agreement that will satisfy you and your neighbor. For example, if you and your neighbor are mutually agreeing to move the adjoining property line, you will draft a lot line agreement. Generally, a lot line agreement will contain the following:[10]
    • A description of the parties
    • Recitals, which offer a factual background to the agreement
    • The substantive agreements, which will include a statement that you and your neighbor mutually desire to adjust a boundary line shared by both parties
    • Signatures
    • A notary's signature
    • An acknowledgement from the city stating that the adjustment does not violate any zoning or land use laws
  4. Image titled Get an Emergency Protective Order Step 10
    Execute your agreement. Once your agreement has been drafted, you should sign it and offer it to your neighbor. If you and your neighbor have been working together on the issue, the agreement should not have any surprises and your neighbor should be able to sign it soon after reviewing it. If a notary's signature is required, make sure neither you or your neighbor sign until you are in the presence of that notary.
    • In most instances, this document, or its substantive agreements, will need to be incorporated into each property's deed.[11]
  5. Image titled Take Action to Help Stop Human Rights Violations Step 7
    Record the document. Once a new deed is executed (i.e., filled out and signed), it will need to be recorded. When you record a deed, you make it an official part of your property's history and it will be publicly searchable. To record a deed, take the document to the county recorder's office and file it with the clerk there. This will provide notice to any future purchaser that the property line has been changed.[12]

Part 4
Bringing a Lawsuit

  1. Image titled Claim Compensation for Whiplash Step 27
    Consider the consequences of suing your neighbor. If you cannot come to some sort of agreement with your neighbor, you may have to settle your dispute in court. Before filing, however, consider the possible consequences of suing your neighbor. For example, even if you win in court, you will still have to live next to your neighbor for the foreseeable future. This can often create more disputes and tension between you two.[13]
  2. Image titled Become a College Professor Step 8
    Research the law. There are generally two types of lawsuits you can bring to resolve property line disputes. First, you may be able to sue for continuing trespass and ejectment. Second, you may be able to sue for a declaratory judgment.
    • To succeed in a trespass and ejectment suit, you will need to show that your neighbor is trespassing. In addition, your lawsuit will ask the court to remove the neighbor from your land. You might even be able to get money damages if you can prove that the value of your property has diminished because of your neighbor's improper occupation of your land.
    • In a suit for declaratory judgment, a judge will make a determination about who owns the land in question. The judge will look at all of the evidence and make a determination accordingly. Usually, no money damages are awarded in this type of suit.[14]
  3. Image titled Write a Research Paper on the History of the English Language Step 10
    Draft your complaint. A lawsuit starts with the drafting of a complaint, which is a formal legal document that states your claims against the defendant (i.e., your neighbor). Your complaint will also state what remedy you want the court to award. The form and content of your complaint will differ depending on the court rules where you are filing.[15]
  4. Image titled Claim Compensation for Whiplash Step 29
    Fill out your summons. a summons form lets the defendant know they are being sued and requests their response within a certain period of time. Summons forms are usually already complete and all you need to do is fill in the defendant's name. Summons forms can usually be found online on your court's website. Print one out and fill in your neighbor's name.
  5. Image titled Stop Grandparents Visitation Rights Step 6
    File your lawsuit. Your lawsuit (i.e., your complaint and summons), once complete, needs to be filed with the clerk of courts in the state court that has jurisdiction over your case. Because your case will concern real property, it will most likely be filed in a state court in the county where the property is located. When you go to file your case, you will need to pay a filing fee. Filing fees vary depending on the state you live in. Generally fees will range from $250 to $400. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive it.[16]
    • As soon as you pay the filing fee, your lawsuit will be stamped as "filed." Make sure you bring multiple copies of your lawsuit to be stamped. One copy will be served on the defendant and another copy will be yours to keep.
  6. Image titled Stop Grandparents Visitation Rights Step 8
    Serve the defendant. Once your lawsuit has been filed, you must serve the defendant by giving him or her a copy of it. You cannot serve the lawsuit on the defendant yourself. Instead, you need to hire someone 18 years old or older that is not related to the case. That person, called the server, will give your lawsuit to the defendant in person or in the mail. Once service is completed, your server will have to fill out a proof of service form and return it to you. The proof of service form will then be filed with the court.[17]
  7. Image titled Invest Small Amounts of Money Wisely Step 9
    Await the defendant’s answer. After you serve the defendant he or she will have to respond within a certain period of time. The period of time a defendant has to respond will depend on the laws of your state. Usually the time limit is about 30 days. The most common response to a complaint is an answer, which is a formal legal document responding to each of your allegations.
    • Read the defendant's answer carefully because it will give you a good idea of how he or she plans to fight your case.
    • If the defendant does not respond in time, or does not respond at all, the court may rule in your favor with a default judgment. If this happens, you will win and get the relief you asked for in your complaint.[18]

Part 5
Going to Court

  1. Image titled Claim Compensation for Whiplash Step 32
    Conduct discovery. During discovery you and the defendant will have an opportunity to exchange information in order to prepare for trial. When you exchange information you will be able to talk with witnesses, look at documents, get an idea of what the defendant is going to say, and see how strong your case is. To help you through discovery you will be able to use the following tools:[19]
    • Depositions, which are formal in-person interviews with witnesses and parties. These interviews are conducted under oath and answers can be used in court.
    • Interrogatories, which are written questions posed to witnesses and parties. The answers are drafted under oath and can be used in court.
    • Requests for documents, which are formal requests to the other party asking for relevant documents that are not otherwise publicly available.
    • Requests for admissions, which are written statements the defendant must admit or deny.
  2. Image titled Get Married in Las Vegas Step 1
    Defend against a motion for summary judgment. As soon as discovery concludes, the defendant will likely file a motion for summary judgment. To succeed, the defendant will have to persuade the court that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In other words, the defendant has to prove that, even if the court made every factual assumption in your favor, you would still lose. If successful, the litigation will end and the court will rule in the defendant's favor.
    • However, you can defend against this motion by submitting your own evidence and affidavits persuading the court that factual disputes exist that need to be handled during trial.[20]
  3. Image titled Claim Compensation for Whiplash Step 24
    Attempt to settle. If your litigation continues past the summary judgment stage, you might consider trying to settle the lawsuit with your neighbor. Going to trial can be an expensive and time consuming endeavor. To try and settle, sit down with your neighbor and discuss solutions. If an agreement can be reached, draft the agreement and execute it. If an agreement cannot be reached, try taking part in mediation.
  4. Image titled Claim Compensation for Whiplash Step 34
    Attend the final pretrial hearing. If you cannot settle your dispute, attend the final pretrial hearing with the defendant in order to set the trial schedule. During this meeting you and the defendant will discuss every issue that needs to be heard during trial. The judge will create a trial schedule and road map based on these discussions. Be sure you raise every issue during these meetings or else you may not be able to discuss them during trial.[21]
  5. Image titled Get an Emergency Protective Order Step 12
    Go to trial. If your case goes to trial, it will either be tried in front of a judge or a jury. The trial will start with you and the defendant making opening statements that discuss how you see the trial going. After opening statements, you and the defendant will each present your case. When you present your case you will call witnesses to the stand and introduce evidence through them. After you and the defendant present your cases, the court will hear closing arguments. The closing argument is your last chance to try and convince the court you should win.
    • After the trial is over, the court will deliberate and consider the evidence it heard. When the court makes a decision, it will issue a verdict. If you win, your neighbor will have to stop encroaching on your property and your boundary will be drawn in your favor. If you lose, the disputed property may be deemed to belong to your neighbor.[22]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (19)

Article Info

Categories: Real Estate