When Neighbors Dispute Property Lines

So your neighbor just had his land surveyed, and you see stakes on what you thought was your property. Now he’s telling you that you need to move your fence off “his” land. Now what?

 

Long-held lines of occupation will prevail over a survey, even assuming the survey is accurate. Imagine the chaos if every time a survey revealed an encroachment, fences and buildings up and down the block had to be moved to fit within the survey lines!

It is important to get a staked survey when buying property—to find out if there are boundary questions.

But if the survey reveals a problem, it cannot by itself provide the answer.

Lines of occupation may not match up with a survey because of discrepancies between legal descriptions of neighboring properties (they may overlap or have gaps between them) or because one neighbor has occupied part of a neighboring property.

Courts have developed principles to deal with these situations, such as adverse possession and acquiescence.

An attorney who understands these principles may help you convince (your neighbor, or if an amicable solution cannot be reached, a court) that, in light of the facts of your particular situation, the line of occupation should prevail over the survey.

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