By Jeffrey L. Marcus*
Lot line disputes are common and can be
expensive, time consuming and emotionally trying to the
coterminous property owners.
The following demonstrates an unfortunate lot line
dispute, how equitable legal principles apply to lot line
disputes and recommendations to shield a buyer from a lot
Buyer purchases his multi-million dollar home consisting
of a spacious yard with a pool, sport court and riding
fence, installed 25 years ago by the developer of the
tract separates Mr. Buyer’s yard from Nasty Neighbor’s
Neighbor decides to further improve his yard and through a
land survey learns that part of Mr. Buyer’s pool, sport
court and riding stable encroaches on his property.
According to Nasty Neighbor’s land survey, the
fence is not located at the true boundary line and he
wants the fence relocated.
Mr. Buyer investigates, which results in
confirmation of the improper fence location and his
non-payment of taxes for the encroached property.
Whether in a residential or commercial
setting, this type of lot line dispute is not uncommon.
The following discussion sets forth Mr. Buyer’s
Boundary Disputes Generally:
legal doctrines are sometimes available to Mr. Buyer: (i)
quiet title action under agreed boundary, (ii) adverse
possession, and (iii) easement by prescription.
These doctrines share some similar elements, but
have distinct requirements and different legal effects.
Adverse possession generally requires the payment
of taxes for the encroached property.
Easement by prescription generally does not entitle
Mr. Buyer to maintain his improvements on Nasty
Neighbor’s property and sometimes does not apply to a
residential boundary dispute.
Quiet title by agreed boundary may be a viable
Quiet Title to Real Property by Agreed Boundary:
a boundary line is uncertain or ambiguous, adjoining
landowners may establish the boundary by a tacit
are three elements to establish a boundary by agreement.
As to the True Boundary Line:
Mr. Buyer to maintain the fence in its present location,
he must demonstrate that uncertainty existed between him and Nasty Neighbor
concerning the fence location. Uncertainty may be inferred from the circumstances.
Both parties improved their respective properties
up to the fence, therefore, it is inferred that until
recently neither Mr. Buyer nor Nasty Neighbor knew of the
true boundary line.
party seeking to invoke the agreed boundary doctrine must
demonstrate that the adjoining landowners mutually agreed
to establish a boundary. The agreement may be implied from
long acquiescence of a boundary that was established upon
a doubtful or disputed property line.
Here, Mr. Buyer, Nasty Neighbor and their
respective predecessors acquiesced to the location of the
fence as the true boundary.
The acquiescence may also be established by Mr.
Buyer’s improvements and occupancy on the encroached
longstanding fence likely establishes a boundary
Period of Use:
adjoining landowners must accept the fence as the true
boundary line for at least five years.
Effect Of Agreed Boundary:
established, the agreed boundary line becomes the true
line and is binding whether or not the party claiming the
land up to the agreed boundary has been paying the
property taxes on that land.
Boundaries established by agreed boundary are
binding on the parties to the agreement and on their
Land surveys are not required and are
generally not the norm in the purchase and sale of real
protect your prospective property from a lot line dispute,
it is recommended that you obtain extended title insurance
to protect and insure your lot line or hire a surveyor.
This newsletter is published for
the interest of friends, clients and prospective clients
of the Law Offices of Jeffrey L. Marcus.
Individual facts and circumstances usually differ
from hypothetical situations.
The analysis set forth herein should not be relied
upon or considered as legal advice without the further
involvement of an attorney.
*Jeffrey L. Marcus, Esq.
provides litigation services and transactional advice to
the firm’s clients.
He has more than 14 years’ experience in private
and corporate practices involving real estate and business
transactions. Mr. Marcus can be contacted at email@example.com
or at the above address/telephone number.