Property Survey Disputes

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 What Is A Real Property Survey Report?

A real property survey report is a legal document that clearly indicates the location of all improvements relative to a property’s boundaries. This report generally contains an illustration of the physical features of the property, as well as a written report detailing the surveyor’s opinions and concerns.

Real property survey reports protect you as a homeowner or a potential home buyer by containing a legal description of the property boundaries. The survey makes the owner or potential buyer aware of any potential boundary disputes, and the surveyor can become an expert witness in court as they assume responsibility for the report’s accuracy. Real property survey reports should be conducted alongside other title search techniques.

A real property survey report generally includes:

  • A legal description of the property, including the dimensions and locations of the property boundaries;
  • The street address;
  • The location of all buildings relative to the property’s boundaries;
  • The location of adjacent properties;
  • The location and description of all improvements; and
  • The type and location of any encumbrances such as easements or covenants.

What Are Title And Boundary Disputes?

A title dispute generally involves two adjoining landowners disagreeing over who owns a piece of property. Alternatively, boundary disputes generally occur when two adjoining landowners disagree about where the line between their two pieces of property runs.

Boundary disputes are common when one property owner wants to change their property and the other disputes their right to do so while claiming it would infringe upon their property rights.

An example of this would be if one property owner wants 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 that 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, which poses a problem because landowners have the right to undertake home additions, remove trees, and take other similar types of action on their property only.

What Are Property Survey Disputes?

Property survey disputes are disputes between individuals regarding the boundaries, measurements, or location of a given piece of property. These disputes most commonly occur between neighbors, as was previously mentioned.

An example is when a neighbor constructs a new fence, and the other may contend that the fence is on that neighbor’s property. These real estate disputes can generally be solved by conducting a property survey, as previously discussed. This survey will yield a report which will help to resolve the dispute.

To reiterate, a professional property survey is conducted by a person who is known as a professional property surveyor. The surveyor’s job is to locate the precise boundary lines of a piece of property. Surveyors accomplish this by researching the current property deed, which is a document that describes the location and boundaries of a piece of land. Additionally, the surveyor will perform a title search, which details the history of who owned a piece of property as well as how the property was transferred from one person to another.

Once the surveyor has conducted their research, they will physically go to the property and make a drawing or sketch of the piece of property. This includes various boundaries, such as fences, sidewalks, and driveways. The surveyor will include this drawing in a survey report and information such as the street address and descriptions of neighboring property.

The surveyor will then report any improvements that a property owner has made to the property and any easements, which are rights that allow others to come onto the property for a specific purpose.

Property survey reports can resolve property disputes but are not a guarantee. Some of the most common types of property disputes include:

  • Land use disputes, such as how neighbor X may allege that neighbor Y is using neighbor Y’s property in a way that harms neighbor X or neighbor X’s property;
  • Disputes over the exact location of a shared property border;
  • Disputes over a fence, tree, or other objects that encroach upon a neighbor’s property;
  • Disputes between the description of the property in a survey report, and how that property is described in a deed; and
  • Disputes over whether a deed fully and accurately describes the property’s actual boundaries.

How Are Property Survey Disputes Resolved?

Property survey disputes can be resolved informally or formally by filing a lawsuit in court. An example of how property survey disputes may be resolved informally would be when neighbors agree to accept the results of a survey report. If one property owner disagrees with the results of a report, that specific owner can obtain their own report at their own expense. If the results do not resolve the dispute, the owners can jointly select a surveyor and agree to be bound by the findings of that surveyor.

If the parties cannot agree with the findings of a jointly selected surveyor, they may choose to enter into non-binding mediation. During non-binding mediation, a qualified mediator will hear each party’s claims and attempt to help the parties find common ground to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution. Mediators can help the parties do this by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case if that case were to be presented in a court of law.

A property owner may file a civil lawsuit against the other owner if an agreement cannot be reached. The judge will evaluate each party’s evidence in the lawsuit, including deeds, title searches, and survey reports. In their decision, the judge will determine the actual boundary lines. If the judge finds that under these boundary lines, one owner’s tree encroaches on the other’s property, the judge can order that owner to prevent that specific encroachment. However, if the judge finds that one owner built a fence on the other’s property, the judge can order that the fence be removed and that the owner who built it pay for the costs associated with the removal.

To prevent future disputes, the judge may order that the deed be reformed. Reformation of a deed involves changing the deed’s description of the property to conform with the judge’s decision regarding the property’s proper boundaries. The judge can order that a reformed deed be filed with the county’s land recorder, recorder of deeds, or another government official responsible for keeping land records.

Once the new deed has been recorded, subsequent owners are bound by the terms of that new deed. This is so that disputes resolved by the judge’s decision do not happen again.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Property Survey Disputes?

If you have questions about or dispute the results of a property survey, you should contact a property lawyer in your area for advice and guidance. Property surveys can have dramatic effect on the value of a piece of property, so it’s important that they are conducted properly.

Your property attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options under your state’s specific real estate laws. An experienced attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, should legal action be necessary to resolve the issue.

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