A “boundary line” is a legal term that refers to the area that a plot of land covers. It is generally determined by using either a property surveyor or GPS technology. The description of your boundary lines can usually be found in the property’s recorded title.
Determining the boundary lines of your property can often be a challenging task that could lead to disputes with your neighbors. Many counties and cities have laws concerning how close a building or structure can be to a property line.
In addition, many counties and cities may also have rules about the number of trees, shrubs, foliage, and so on, that are permitted to sit along a property line. Such rules are typically based on that particular area’s local history or issues regarding fire safety.
One important aspect of having a clearly identified boundary line is that it can help the property owners to understand their responsibilities. Whether it is an overgrown tree or a large area of dried brush that needs to be removed, it is not always clear which neighbor should be responsible.
If you are fined by the city or suffer serious property damage because someone did not take care of a problem on their property, being able to settle these kinds of issues with your neighbor peacefully can make such situations go much more smoothly for both parties.
While boundary lines of your property are not always clear, you do not have to leave it up to chance or guess. Instead, you can come to an agreement about a boundary line with your neighbors even if it is not 100% accurate. Be warned, however, that this might still cause some disputes down the road.
How Can Two Property Owners Make a Boundary Line Agreement?
There are only certain situations where boundary line agreements will be considered as legally enforceable. In order for it to be enforceable, the following elements must be present under the agreed boundary doctrine:
- The landowners are unsure about where the true boundary lines lie;
- Both landowners agree on the new boundary line;
- Both landowners must act as if the agreed boundary line is the true boundary line; and
- The landowners should identify the new boundary line with a marker, such as by building a fence.
If any of the elements listed above are not present, then the agreed upon boundary line may not be enforceable. However, if all of the above requirements are met, then the agreed boundary line will be enforceable, even if a property surveyor later determines that the true boundary line is located somewhere else between the properties.
How Do I Settle a Dispute over Property Lines?
Although the above list acts as a general guideline for what must occur to create a boundary line agreement, it does not necessarily cover what happens when a dispute arises. Also, rushing to hire a lawyer is not always the right response, especially when it comes to disputes between neighbors.
If the two neighbors have a history of tension, then a party may want to begin discussions by dropping off a note that clearly informs the other neighbor about their intentions regarding the boundary line. That party should also be prepared to give their neighbor a reasonable amount of time to reply to their note, so that the issue does not immediately become stressful or contentious.
If their neighbor refuses to comply, then the party should check to see if their local county or city offers its residents the option of mediation or arbitration for disputes. Generally speaking, many counties offer its residents free mediation, especially those concerning neighborhood disputes. This is so that they can steer the local courts clear of having to handle issues or concerns that do not always call for litigation.
Additionally, the most important thing to keep in mind is that putting the agreed boundary in writing should not make relationships with neighbors hostile or unfriendly. Instead, both parties should view the written agreement as a way to prevent confusion. This can be especially helpful in situations where the unexpected happens, such as a tree crashing through someone’s roof.
Many people see anything that is formal or legally binding as not being “neighborly.” In reality, neighbors should seize such an opportunity and use it to ensure that they can focus on living peacefully and are not fighting over a disputed property line.
What Happens When Landowners Make a Boundary Line Agreement?
Once both parties agree to a specific boundary line, they will enter into a written lot line agreement, which is basically an agreement that verifies the perimeter line on a parcel of land. The agreement functions to move the lot line if the portion of property originally belonged to one of the parties, but they are now agreeing to make it part of the other party’s land.
Lot line agreements are legally binding in a way that is similar to as if the parties were signing a contract. Interestingly, the agreed boundary doctrine makes future owners subject to the parties’ new agreed upon boundary lines. Thus, before the parties enter into such an agreement, they should check their local zoning and subdivision property lines to confirm that their agreement will not encroach on either of those lines.
How Do You Dispute a Boundary Line Agreement?
Despite coming to an agreement, disputes over an agreed upon boundary line can still occur. The reason for this is because an agreed boundary line can generally be challenged, so long as there is no evidence of a past agreement.
For instance, if there is no evidence that a past agreement was made, it will not matter if the parties erected a fence or made the agreed boundary line known in some other manner. There must be evidence that an agreement was entered into by the parties.
A disputed boundary line can cause serious issues, especially when a person’s home sits on or crosses the boundary line that their neighbor is claiming is correct. If their neighbor is ultimately correct, then the person may need to pay them for that portion of the land, or if possible, move the structure so it no longer sits on their property.
Scenarios such as this are the reason why the parties should always put their agreed boundary line agreement into a confirmed writing. This way it provides evidence that the parties can refer back to in the event of an agreed boundary line dispute.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Draft a Boundary Line Agreement?
It may be in your best interest to hire a local real estate lawyer to draft your boundary line agreement. By retaining separate lawyers to draft the agreement, it can offer the parties extra protection regarding its terms as well as can resolve any inconsistencies or disputes that may arise before signing the agreement.
In addition, a lawyer can also research the relevant state laws in your area to determine if your state follows the agreed boundary doctrine, and if so, discuss what steps are necessary to make your agreed upon boundary line official.