By: Steven Schneider
A real estate boundary line dispute may involve anywhere from a few square feet to tracts of acreage. One party may have been using the property of another for many years without knowledge and then a new owner comes in and asserts ownership. A surveying mistake or a difference of opinion or method in resolving surveying issues may result in conflicting surveys.
In any case, traditional attitudes toward private ownership of real property, from the depths to the heavens, create the “Get off my lawn” mentality and a confrontation. So when your neighbor at the lake puts his dock in your square foot of second class shore land the gauntlet is seriously thrown down. Then he’ll build an addition to block your view, shine his porch light in your bedroom window, and fill your locks with glue. That was a real case that cost the parties many times the value of the property in dispute.
This can also happen on your residential city lot. Did your predecessor build the fence right on the line, or up to the line, or just where he thought the line might be? And if your neighbor runs over your sprinkler next to his driveway, is he trespassing or are you encroaching?
In either case, the first step is to order a survey. Preferably, the survey will show the disputed line(s) and the location of structures, fences, docks, relative to the line(s). This costs money and might actually prove you wrong. However, in Washington, a Seller of real estate is required to disclose a dispute or discrepancy in the Seller’s Real Property Disclosures. Your basic title insurance policy won’t cover a boundary discrepancy without a survey and will not cover something not in the record.
But the Seller must resolve the matter in order to sell the property, or even pass it down to the kids, without the dispute. If the neighbors are reasonable, you may not need an attorney. A survey is however, always advised even if to describe an agreed boundary line and record.
But the situation can bring out the worst in people because a man’s home is his castle. When you order the survey, your neighbor might pull up the stakes and scare the surveyor off. You are getting ready to pour concrete on a 100 foot retaining wall and he gets a restraining order as the cement trucks pull up. He finds an old survey or gets a new one that contradicts yours, claims he’s been mowing that spot and planting posies for years, his grandpa had a pig sty right there and all the old timers remember that hog that won the blue ribbon. And by the way, the original patent described one corner as at the big tree or on a rock. Again, your best friend is the surveyor, not that shotgun. See you in Court!
Attorney Steven Schneider will be speaking about issues related to boundary line disputes on December 11, 2012 at the Red Lion River Inn.This seminar will benefit attorneys, surveyors, engineers, architects, developers, planners, local government officials, real estate or title insurance professionals. For more information, see the National Business Institute’s Webpage