Boundary disputes are disputes between adjoining landowners or neighbors over where one landowner’s property ends and where the other landowner’s property begins.
These disputes may arise soon after a new owner takes possession of one of the adjoining properties, or after the neighbors have peacefully coexisted for years and one party gets a survey to add a garage or other structure to their property; builds a fence; or does landscaping that crosses or is perceived as crossing the other landowner’s property line.
Some common situations that lead to boundary disputes include:
• House encroachment—after getting a survey done for an addition or improvement, a landowner may learn their neighbor’s house encroaches on or is located on their property.
• Garage encroachment—after getting a survey done for an addition or improvement, a landowner may learn their neighbor’s garage encroaches on or is located on their property.
• Driveway encroachment—after getting a survey done for an addition or improvement, a landowner may learn their neighbor’s driveway encroaches on or is located on their property—and removing the encroaching portion of the driveway would make it unusable.
• Fence placement—disputes regarding fences may arise when a landowner places a new fence or replaces an existing fence, and the landowner’s neighbor has a survey done and determines that fence is on the neighbor’s property.
• Landscaping—disputes regarding landscaping may arise when a landowner plants new trees, shrubs, bushes, or places other landscaping—or replaces existing trees, shrubs, bushes, or other landscaping—and the landowner’s neighbor has a survey done and determines that landscaping is on the neighbor’s property.
• Lot line disputes—after getting a survey done for an addition or improvement, a landowner may learn their lot line is not located where they believed it to be located.
• Access issues—A property owner may need ingress (entering the property) or egress (leaving the property) over a neighboring property or may need to use a driveway or parking lot that belongs to a neighbor. A property owner may have been using the neighboring property in one or more of these ways before the use is disputed by a new neighbor, for example.
Boundary disputes may be resolved in a number of ways, and it may be important to the long-term value of the properties to resolve these disputes and clearly define the rights of the property owners. These disputes generally may be resolved by agreement—with or without compensation for the use or sale of the disputed property—or by litigation (a lawsuit).
Some of the potential resolutions of a boundary dispute include:
• the granting of an easement
• the granting of a license
• the sale of a portion of the property
• the lease of a portion of the property
• filing a lawsuit for ejectment or trespass
• filing a lawsuit to quiet title
When the use of a neighbor’s property in violation of a boundary line is open, obvious, and adverse to the neighboring property for a period of years, there may also be issues of adverse possession and prescriptive easements to be considered.