Testing your Property Boundaries

Ownership of real property is a privilege that once belonged only to kings and nobility, and as masters of our own domain we each take our home and lands very seriously. It is no wonder that boundary disputes can provoke the nastiest of all sentiments between neighbors. Many of these disputes can be avoided, however, if both parties have a clear understanding of facts, proper documentation, and a willingness to come to fair agreements.

Know your Facts 


Boundary issues can arise at any time - so one of the very best ways to avoid an issue around property lines is to know your facts. The time to do this is before signing a purchase agreement. When purchasing a home on land, there is no substitute for a thorough check on property lines, including a clear understanding of the deed of title, and land record, or "plat". If you are purchasing a condo, or a home in a community, study all the documentation you can about your unit, storage and ancillary areas that come with the unit, and common areas, rules around building or renovating fences, screens, or dividers.

Learn about your rights and responsibilities around trees, landscaping, driveways and sidewalks, or any area where you might come into contact with your neighbors. If there is a view involved, understand any community or local view ordinances, and consider entering into an agreement with neighbors regarding your view, going so far as to purchase those rights. Offering cash to procure a written contract may seem excessive, but your rights will be protected and may be upheld in a court of law.


Drawing the Line


Property lines should be clearly described in official records including a property title and land plat. Establishing where lines are up front will aid any interested party prior to clearing, building, or using land. Online resources make these records readily available in many areas, though finding markers on site may prove more of a challenge. When in doubt, hire a licensed surveyor to establish where the property line is actually located and mark the findings clearly.


When you are conducting your search for issues on any property that you are considering buying, it is well worth your time to understand mineral and water rights, forest issues, rights of water and well and other covenants. Know if there are any easements on your property - "Right of way" enables property owners who would otherwise not be able to gain access to their land to do just that. Usually this is accomplished by negotiating an easement across another property. If there is a recorded easement on your property, it may be exercised at any time.


In addition to your rights with regards to property lines, it is important to understand your responsibilities. Before building, clearing, or using property close to a boundary line, ensure that you have a thorough grasp of the building codes in your locality. Building over, on, or close to a property line may violate laws and incur costs that are avoidable.



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