Boundary by Acquiescence Law

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is Acquiescence to a Boundary Line?

The doctrine of acquiescence is a legal concept that may be utilized by a property owner to help determine the boundary line between two properties by looking at the past conduct of neighboring property owners to determine if a boundary line may be legally implied from the neighboring owners past agreements, actions, or inactions.

In simple terms, a boundary line is a legal line to a property that allows a property owner to determine what property belongs to them both physically and as stated on their deed documents. Boundary lines are also important in resolving disputes between neighbors when one neighbor believes the other is infringing on their property.

For example, if one property owner wants to remove a tree that they believe is on their land, but it actually is within the other neighbors boundary lines, and they want to keep the tree, then the other neighbor can object to the removal of the tree and assert their property rights to the land within their boundary line.

In general, there are four basic boundary lines that may be found on residential property lots:

  • Land;
  • Water;
  • Air; and
  • Subsurface or mineral rights.

The doctrine of acquiescence is important as it may even overrule the boundary line that is listed in the deeds of the property owners. This means that if the law of acquiescence applies, then one property owner may lose title to some amount of their land and the other property owner will gain title to the land that was lost. As a result, the boundary lines of the neighboring property owners may be rewritten.

What Are the Elements of Boundary by Acquiescence?

Once again, if the law of acquiescence applies to a boundary dispute, then one neighbor may be entitled to additional property, while another neighboring property owner will lose property. However, before the law of acquiescence applies the owner that is seeking to gain property and change the boundary line stated in the land deeds will have to prove all of the legal elements required to change the boundary by acquiescence.

Although the exact legal elements required to prove boundary by acquiescence will differ from state to state, in general acquiescence to a boundary line may result in a change of ownership when one of the following occurs:

  • Acquiescence for the Prescribed Statutory Period: Acquiescence for the prescribed statutory period may change the ownership of property when the neighboring property owners have been treating a particular boundary line as the dividing line between their properties for the statutory period outlined in their local property code.
    • For example, if neighboring landowners erected a fence, and treated that fence line as the boundary line for 15 years, then that may be enough to meet the statutory period of acquiescence, even if their deeds or survey states otherwise;
  • By Agreement: Once again the most common form of acquiescence is by demonstrating that the neighboring property owners have agreed on a boundary line, even if the agreement is different from what is stated in their deeds; and/or
  • Acquiescence from a Deed: The doctrine of acquiescence may also apply if a property owner grants their property or intends to grant their property by deed to another person, and uses an incorrect legal description in their deed. The incorrect boundary line may then be argued as justification for adjusting the boundary line to the stated location in the deed.

When Does the Law of Acquiescence Apply?

Typically, legal issues surrounding boundary disputes by acquiescence will occur when a purchaser buys land, conducts a survey in accordance with the deed, and realizes that the legal title and boundaries of a property are different than the boundaries stated within the deed. Then that new purchaser of the land will typically raise the issue with the neighbor, and in many cases initiate a civil lawsuit if they cannot reach an agreement with the neighbor that resolves the issues.

Once again, in order for the law of acquiescence to apply, the property owner seeking to adjust the boundary line must prove the elements of acquiescence law in their jurisdiction. The general elements for acquiescence law are outlined above. The law of acquiescence is typically raised when adjoining property owners are both mistaken about where the boundary lines between their property are.

As discussed above, adjoining property owners may often treat a boundary line, such as a fence, as their property line. In many cases, a fence line may not match up with the survey or boundary lines that are outlined in the property deeds, which leads to the fence being erected incorrectly. If the law of acquiescence applies in that situation, then one property owner will typically lose all legal title to some amount of land.

As such, many people think of acquiescence law as being similar to the doctrine of adverse possession. However, in the case of acquiescence law there is no legal requirement that the actions of one neighbor be hostile. Hostile means that a person possessed the land of the neighboring property owner, without regard to the actual boundary line. Instead of the neighboring property owner’s claim to the land being hostile, in an acquiescence case it may be based on a mutual mistake between the two property owners.

In fact, a legal property claim in an acquiescence case cannot be hostile in nature. This is because if both neighbors believe that they are observing the true boundary line, they cannot claim that they are holding the property of another without regard to the actual boundary line. As such, the law of acquiescence only applies to cases in which neither neighbor intends to take property from the other, but they are mistaken as to the location of the actual boundary line.

Once again, the law of acquiescence may apply in one of three situations:

  • Acquiescence by dispute and agreement;
  • Acquiescence for a statutory period of time; and/or
  • Acquiescence by intention to deed to a boundary line.

If one of the above situations applies, then the new boundary line may become enforceable through court action. This means that the actual boundary line stated in the deed may be changed in accordance with the court’s ruling on acquiescence law. In short, the neighboring property owner that unintentionally infringed onto the other property owner’s land will acquire the property that they infringed upon by operation of law.

This means that all of the property within the new boundary line will legally belong to that property owner moving forward.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Acquiescence to a Boundary Line?

As can be seen, it is often difficult to determine where a boundary line is between two pieces of property, unless a survey is conducted to determine if the boundary lines are correct in accordance with the deeds. As such, if you have any doubt as to the boundary lines of your property, you should consult an experienced real estate lawyer.

An experienced real estate lawyer will be able to help you understand your local jurisdictions laws regarding the law of acquiescence, and any statutory periods involving acquiescence. Additionally, an experienced real estate lawyer will also be able to assist you in avoiding losing title to land that is legally yours.

An attorney can also help you initiate a civil lawsuit against the neighboring property owner if you are unable to reach an agreement regarding the boundary lines of the properties. Finally, an attorney can also represent your interests in court, as needed.

Save Time and Money - Speak With a Lawyer Right Away

  • Buy one 30-minute consultation call or subscribe for unlimited calls
  • Subscription includes access to unlimited consultation calls at a reduced price
  • Receive quick expert feedback or review your DIY legal documents
  • Have peace of mind without a long wait or industry standard retainer
  • Get the right guidance - Schedule a call with a lawyer today!

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer