A property dispute is a legal dispute involving real estate. Although this may sound relatively simple, the term “property dispute” covers a wide range of possible disputes over a wide range of property. The property involved could be anything, including a:

  • Vacant lot;
  • Residence;
  • Deck;
  • Condominium;
  • Manufactured home;
  • Pond;
  • Driveway; and
  • Other possible elements of real property.

Property disputes can be small or large, and may occasionally affect the marketability of title. However, this is not a qualifying factor in order to constitute a dispute. An example of this would be how a property dispute may arise when a builder of new construction homes pours a concrete driveway for a brand-new home. They accidentally create the driveway so that it crosses onto the neighbor’s property by six inches. This is a relatively small issue, but has the potential to become a larger problem down the road if it is not corrected as soon as possible.

Generally speaking, a title dispute involves two adjoining landowners disagreeing over who actually owns a piece of property. In other words, the property owners are disputing as to who actually owns the title to that piece of land. On the other hand, boundary disputes generally occur when two adjoining landowners disagree about where the line between their two pieces of property runs.

Boundary disputes most commonly arise when one property owner wishes to make a change to their property, while the other property owner disputes their right to do so while claiming it would infringe upon their property. This other property owner is oftentimes a neighbor.

An example of this would be if one property owner would like to build a home addition, but their neighbor claims that the addition crosses the boundary line into their property. Another example would be if a property owner wishes to remove a tree or limb that they believe is on their property while their neighbor claims the tree or limb is on their property, whether wholly or partially.

Many property owners are unaware of where exactly their property lines are located. This poses a problem due to the fact that landowners have the right to undertake home additions, remove trees, and take other similar types of action on their property only.

What Documentation and Questions Should I Compile Before I Meet with My Title and Boundary Dispute Attorney? 

A legal consultation is an initial meeting with an attorney, taking place before you decide whether to hire that attorney to represent you in your particular legal matter. The attorney will also use the consultation to determine if they can legally and competently represent you based on the information that you provided them with. 

It is important to note that an initial legal consultation does not mean that the attorney is officially representing you or has taken on your case. Generally speaking, in order for an attorney to legally represent you, there must be a written representation agreement signed by both you and the attorney. Alternatively, you must be able to prove that through their words or actions, the attorney consented to representing you. 

Prior to consulting with an attorney, you should properly prepare for the consultation by gathering any and all documentation relevant to your case. It is important to bring every document you have for the attorney to review, as they will be able to properly determine which documents are relevant, and which are not. Documents that you should bring with you may include any of the following:

  • Contracts: If your claim involves a contract dispute, you should bring copies of the contract. Additionally, bring any supplemental documents further explaining the contract;
  • Police or Accident Reports: If possible, you should bring any police or accident report that was created as a result of the incident you were involved in;
  • Property Deeds: Documentation for claims involving property disputes should include a copy of the deed or any documents relating to the property. An example of other such documents would be an oil and gas lease; and/or
  • Other Documents Evidencing Damages: Other important documents to bring include any evidence of damages, such as medical records or expenses, or any warranties or letters created by the party you are trying to sue. 

Prior to the consultation, you should ask whether the consultation itself is free; they often are. What specifically is discussed in a legal consultation will heavily depend on your particular legal issue. However, some discussions that normally occur at a consultation include:

  • Costs: An initial consultation will almost always include a discussion of the fees that an attorney may charge in order to represent you regarding your legal dispute. Attorney fee arrangements may be based on a contingency fee, a flat fee, or hourly fee basis. It is very important to discuss an attorney’s fee arrangement during the consultation; and
  • Legal Claims and Facts: Although it may seem obvious, a consultation will always include a discussion of the legal facts as well as your legal claims. It is imperative to be honest when telling the attorney about your particular case. This is because lying about the facts or circumstances surrounding your case will lead to criminal sanctions or other civil penalties. 

Legal consultations will always be confidential. What this means is that what you discuss with an attorney will not be discussed outside of the meeting room. Although an initial consultation does not constitute an attorney-client relationship, everything that you communicate with an attorney during a consultation will remain privileged and confidential, as if an attorney-client privilege had formed. As such, you should provide the attorney with all of the information you have, whether helpful or harmful, so that they may properly evaluate your case. 

Questions that you should ask during a legal consultation may include questions regarding the attorney’s background and qualifications, the attorney’s fee arrangement, and specific questions about your case. In terms of title and boundary disputes, you may ask the attorney you are consulting with how to determine your property’s boundary.

What Makes a Title and Boundary Dispute Case Strong? What Makes it Weak? 

Boundary disputes with neighboring landowners are fairly common. In fact, title and boundary disputes with neighbors are extremely common when one property owner has a survey performed on their land. Surveys often reveal that an adjoining property owner has encroached onto the surveyed property.

If you have a boundary dispute with your neighbor, it is important to review your claim to the boundary before taking any action against your neighbor, such as filing a lawsuit. You should always first try to communicate with the person you are having the boundary dispute with, to see if it is possible to resolve the dispute without any further action on your part.

An example of this would be if they are wanting to cut a tree that you believe is within your boundary lines. They may agree to simply trim the branches on their side, or even shift the fence line in your favor. However, if you can not reach an agreement, you should be ready to do all necessary preparation for resolving a boundary dispute.

It is important to first go to your local county land records office and look up the deed to your land, if you do not already have a copy of your deed. The deed to your land will clarify where the boundary lines for your property are. Additionally, you should also be able to obtain the plat map for your neighborhood, which shows all of the boundary lines.

Once you have obtained the necessary paperwork that outlines the boundary lines for the property, you may then file a lawsuit against the offending party if they do not cease their trespass onto your land.

When Do I Absolutely Need a Lawyer for a Title and Boundary Dispute? 

There are some situations in which it is important to consult a local real estate attorney immediately, especially if someone is trying to claim ownership over your property or if there is a genuine issue with title to the property. As property laws can vary greatly depending on what state you are located in, it is extremely helpful to consult an attorney local to you who is knowledgeable about how property laws work in your area.

A skilled and knowledgeable real estate attorney can talk through the situation with you, as well as research the public records regarding the property. An experienced and local real estate attorney can also give you the best legal advice regarding how their research affects your property, and the best way to move forward. 

Your attorney can also represent you in court as needed, work with you to clear any clouds on title, and help you to clear any liens that you may have on your property.