Legal boundary disputes usually happen when one or more property owners disagree on where their land ends and another begins. These disputes can bring tension between otherwise friendly neighbors.
Try to keep the situation civil. There are many things to consider before you take legal action. There are certain things you should know to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the law or taking things to trial when they could be settled out of court.
Read ahead for a brief introduction to boundary disputes and how to handle them.
What Is a Boundry Dispute?
A boundary line dispute can occur because of inaccurate deed descriptions. These can show overlapped boundaries.
Maybe a neighbor has occupied part of the land for a long enough time to consider it theirs. This is called “adverse possession.”
How do you know if it’s you or your neighbor encroaching on the other’s land? Your options differ depending on the situation and certain facts involved.
Get a professional analysis to help figure out how long it’s been happening and how much land is involved. Has permission ever been granted?
Have a full title search done. Get a land survey and appraisal so you know the market value of the piece of property in dispute. You might already have these. Now is the time to use them, but make sure they’re up-to-date.
It’s a good idea to consult a boundary dispute attorney at this point. You need to find out if you have a valid claim. Find out what else you may need to proceed with a boundary dispute lawsuit.
Discuss It With Your Neighbor
Before you rush into court, talking with your neighbor might be the best way to go if the value of the land is small. Litigation is expensive so it might make more sense to solve it yourselves if that’s the case. It could simply be a case of misunderstanding.
Sending a Demand Letter
If the law is on your side and the talks with your neighbor haven’t led to anything productive, consider a letter. You might need one from your attorney to explain the issue to your neighbor. These can request action or a settlement.
Settlement offers might help divide the property lines or change them. They might ask for or offer a payment. Consider the settlement if it’s less expensive than a trial.
Stay Honest About Boundary Disputes
Show your neighbor that you’re being transparent by offering to show them the information you have such as surveys, appraisals, and titles. It will help them understand the situation fully. It will also save them time and money.
Take It to Court or Settle?
Sometimes, if the demand letter and other negotiations don’t move you forward, you may want to pursue other avenues, such as a complaint in circuit court. Consider a “quiet title“, which asks the court to go over the documents and decide who owns the land legally.
Costs will begin to add up at this point because litigation requires a significant amount of paperwork outside the basics. The courts ask for many different documents in situations like these.
A good attorney will minimize the costs if they see the case is ripe for settlement early on. When searching for a “real estate lawyer near me“, do background research on their past cases so you know you can trust them.
They can be your mediator at this point. A lot of preparation is required before going to trial. You can all reduce time and costs, and avoid court, through successful mediation.
Worth Fighting for?
Hire a real estate attorney who has experience in this field and knows local laws. They will guide you and represent you during a boundary dispute. If the piece of land in question is large enough, the right attorney could save you a lot of green and tell you if legal action is even necessary.
If you found this article informative, check out more in our Real Estate and Home section