A Land Dispute - What is the #1 Thing to Do to in This Case?

Article Summary

  1. Typically a land dispute starts when a property owner makes improvements to their property.
  2. Whenever a land dispute becomes apparent, always try to meet with the neighbor immediately.
  3. If the documents fail to settle the disagreement and the property is still in dispute, your neighbor and you should agree to get a professional report and hire a land surveyor.
  4. Many people seem to think that title insurance will cover the cost of a land dispute, however, this is usually not the case.
  5. Is your dispute clearly about the location of the property line, or is a dispute over usage and control of the property based on a claim of adverse possession?

We all want to get along with our neighbors and live in peace in our community.  However, from time to time a land dispute may arise and, if not dealt with properly, the conflict could become heated and provide anxiety and unneeded headaches for everyone involved.  Before a disagreement gets out of hand, there are a few things you need to be aware of.  Having the right knowledge is always half the battle.

Boundary disputes are rarely the initial cause for conflict between neighbors.  Typically a land dispute starts when a property owner makes improvements to their property.  The most common improvements that fan the flames are walls, fences, or pools that encroach the property line, fail to get the proper permits, are seen as a violation of local ordinances, restrict a recognized property use, and/or blocks a driveway or path.

It is not uncommon for your neighbor’s deed to seemingly indicate possession of the same piece of land that your deed allegedly gives you possession of.  Sometimes deeds are read incorrectly.  Sometimes the property in question has an established easement giving your neighbor a right to use it.  In other situations, a statute of limitations has run out.  These are just a few examples.  There are a lot of legal issues that may need to be addressed in order to solve a land dispute.

Whenever a land dispute becomes apparent, always try to meet with the neighbor immediately.  For example, if your neighbor is building a fence that violates the local fence law, letting your neighbor know right away may allow them to modify it at a low cost and make everyone happy.  Amicable resolutions are often the best and can avoid costly litigation.  Bring any supporting documents with you that might help you clear up any misunderstandings. 

Typically, these documents will include deeds, plat maps, property surveys, title insurance paperwork, etc.  If the documents fail to settle the disagreement and the property is still in dispute, your neighbor and you should agree to get a professional report and hire a land surveyor.  A property survey will help to establish the lines of a land parcel and determine where one property ends and one begins.  If this doesn’t clear up the disagreement, you may want to try arbitration or mediation as an alternative dispute resolution.

Many people seem to think that title insurance will cover the cost of a land dispute, however, this is usually not the case. Some title insurance policies have provisions that exclude their involvement in property and boundary line conflicts.  That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a shot to check your title insurance policy and talk to your agent.  He or she may provide some legal assistance if your dispute can be quickly mitigated and resolved.

While there may be some cases where land disputes can be solved through the use of one of the above methods, there will be others that will require the help of an attorney, especially when the land in dispute is valuable.  Keep in mind that, win or lose, your neighbor will still be next door to you, and tensions between the two of you may exist for years afterward.  Is it worth it?

If so, there are two types of lawsuits that can help solve a boundary land dispute:

Ejectment

In this action, you are seeking for the court to find that your neighbor has trespassed on your land so they can be ordered to stop doing so immediately.  Your neighbor must remove any structures or possessions off your land.  If you can show the court that your property has been damaged or diminished by this trespassing, you may be entitled to damages.

Declaratory Judgment Suit

In this lawsuit, the judge makes a legal determination as to who rightfully owns the land in question.  This type of lawsuit is often less litigious since it doesn’t involve monetary damages.

Is your dispute clearly about the location of the property line, or is a dispute over usage and control of the property based on a claim of adverse possession?  What is the likelihood that you would win if your neighbor claims adverse possession?  These are some of the questions that I can help you answer.  I have an unwavering dedication to serve my clients with excellence and integrity. All legal matters are handled with the individualized care and attention that you deserve. Contact me today to help with your land dispute.

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