As the great poet Robert Frost once wrote, good fences make good neighbors. In real estate law, this statement holds great relevance in regards to avoiding disputes related to property boundaries. Most of the time, commercial and residential property owners have a good understanding of where their property begins and ends and extend the same courtesy to their neighbors. Unfortunately, this coexistence is not always easy. Boundary disputes can arise and escalate quickly, causing immense frustration and sometimes requiring involved parties to pursue litigation to reach a solution.
Whether the dispute is a question of uncertainty or a more technical issue involving conflicting property deeds, it is important for disputing parties to pursue cooperative solutions prior to resorting to filing a lawsuit. Scheduling a calm discussion or pursuing mediation can help to clear up any misunderstandings and sometimes allow you to achieve a solution that is far better and smoother than a court-ordered resolution. Before this is possible, however, it is important to have a strong understanding of what property lines are in a legal context.
What Are Boundary Lines?
Simply put, property boundaries are the lines on a county’s tax map which define and separate different pieces of land. While these lines can be obvious in apartment complexes or areas with a grid-like structure, others can be much more ambiguous, especially in suburban or rural settings. Natural dividers such as rivers, roads, or ponds can sometimes naturally change with time and create confusion, such as the drying up of a river during a drought. In these cases, dividing land based on visual cues can be difficult.
In many cases, disputes over boundary lines are sparked when one property owner makes changes or improvements to their land such as the erecting of a fence or a wall. Disputes commonly arise over the following types of acts:
- Constructing an improvement that crosses a property line
- Failing to obtain the proper approvals or permits prior to commencing work
- Interfering with an established property use (i.e. blocking a driveway)
- Building an improvement that violates state law
When Should I Hire an Attorney?
While collaborative methods are preferred, not all boundary disputes can be solved on their own. Even with the assistance of a mediator or land surveyor, certain complex disputes, particularly those involving significant pieces of land, are best handled with the guidance of an experienced attorney. While a lawsuit should only be a last resort as a means to avoid long-term tension and the various costs of litigation, an attorney can ensure your legal rights are guarded at all times and maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your dispute.
Causes of action that may be available to resolve your boundary conflict include:
- Pursuing continuing trespass or ejectment
- Pursuing a declaratory judgment
- Arguing adverse possession
At Schern Richardson Finter Decker, our Phoenix real estate attorneys are well-versed in the various laws and ordinances that affect boundary disputes and can provide the powerful guidance you need to pursue a positive resolution. Having been included in Super Lawyers® Rising Stars℠ and earned an AV® Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell® for our unparalleled advocacy, you can choose us with confidence knowing that your case is sure to be in excellent hands.
Call (888) 464-9958 or contact our office online today to get started.