As top real estate attorneys in the Bay Area, we know that certain conflicts—including property line disputes—take a major toll on property owners. When you need help resolving a property line or boundary issue, Estavillo Law Group is here for you. Contact us online to get started.
As a property owner, you have a lot of responsibilities. In addition to determining the best ways to purchase, use, protect and maintain your property, you must also navigate any legal issues that arise. One of the most common issues that property owners and homeowners face is property line disputes.
Any dispute—regardless of whether it pertains to real estate law—has the potential to get out of hand. However, property disputes may present a greater opportunity for escalation. This is true for many reasons, including the fact that many of these conflicts take place between neighbors who don’t have the privilege of taking space from each other.
If you are struggling to navigate an increasingly complex or stressful property line dispute in the Bay Area, you don’t have to do it alone. Instead of Googling terms like “property line dispute lawyers near me,” contact the trusted real estate attorneys at Estavillo Law Group for guidance.
This article will explain everything you need to know about property line disputes, including the nature of property boundary lines, how property rights are determined, common property line issues, the steps to filing a claim, and much more.
Has a property line dispute brought you to your wit’s end? Don’t make the mistake of trying to solve it alone—the property line dispute lawyers at Estavillo Law Group are here for you. Call our law firm at (888) 982-0599 to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation today.
Understanding the Nature of Property Line Disputes
Before delving into the complexities of property line disputes, it is important to answer one of our most frequently asked questions on the matter: What are property boundary lines?
Boundary property lines, which are often referred to simply as property lines or boundaries, are the defined parameters of a given property. In other words, they outline where one property ends and another begins. Knowing your property lines is important for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Establishing legal ownership. Property lines are useful in determining the exact amount of land a property owner possesses. These boundaries are typically outlined in a property owner’s deed and can also be established by a professional property survey.
- Building, construction, and expansion. Before you endeavor on a new construction or landscaping project, you need to know the exact location of your boundary lines. Failing to do so may result in encroaching on a neighbor’s property.
- Resolving disputes. If you do not have a firm grasp on the parameters of your property, resolving disputes can be challenging. A survey can help you clarify these boundaries.
- Determining property value and taxes. Your property lines help determine the exact size of your property, and the size of your property affects your tax liability.
In many disputes, both property owners believe they know their exact property lines. If they fail to reach an agreement about the exact boundaries, they may need to re-establish property through professional land surveying.
How Are Land Boundary Lines Determined?
Property lines or land boundary lines are typically determined through a process known as land surveying, an undertaking that involves several steps and significant research to complete. When determining your property boundaries, a professional surveyor may do the following:
- Review historical documents and records. Many surveyors begin by examining historical documents related to the property in question. This may include the examination of deeds, wills, and other records that describe the property’s boundaries in reference to natural landmarks, neighboring properties, and other markers.
- Analyze official records. Professional surveyors may also evaluate government records such as plat maps, subdivision plans, and previous surveys in order to determine your property boundaries. These records may provide critical information about how boundaries have changed over time.
- Conduct a physical inspection. The surveyor will likely conduct an in-person inspection of your property in order to identify pertinent markers. Markers and monuments—from metal pins and stones to waterways and other geographical features—may be referenced in previous boundary surveys.
- Use surveying instruments and technology. Modern surveyors have a number of advanced tools at their disposal. They may use GPS, electronic distance measurement tools, theodolites, and other precision instruments to provide an accurate map of the property and its boundaries.
- Create a survey map or plat. After determining the exact location of property lines, a surveyor will create a survey map or plat—a detailed visualization of property boundaries and important identifying features—to serve as a visual representation.
- File their survey with local authorities. Lastly, many surveyors file their findings with local government authorities, such as the county recorder, to solidify them in public record.
As you can see, land surveying is a highly specialized field that requires legal, engineering, mathematical, and geographical knowledge. In many property line disputes, it is necessary to hire a professional land surveyor in order to definitively establish land boundaries.
Common Types of Boundary Line Disputes
A number of disputes can arise when boundary lines are not firmly established and agreed upon by property owners. These misunderstandings typically start with a disagreement about the exact location of property lines and extend to related issues. The following are among the most common types of boundary line disputes:
- Encroachment issues, which often arise when a property owner believes their neighbor’s fence, shed, building extension, or other structure is encroaching on their property
- Trees with overhanging limbs that are encroaching on a neighbors property or trees with roots that are causing property damage
- Fencing issues that involve disagreements over the placement, maintenance, or ownership of a fence or walls that sit on or near the property line
- Easements disputes relating to the terms of existing easements and the legal rights conferred by them
- Surveying disputes resulting from allegations that a previous survey was inaccurate and not indicative of the true boundary lines
- Adverse possession claims that arise when one party has used or occupied a piece of land for a long time without the legal owner’s permission
- Water boundary disputes that arise over shifting boundaries of properties adjacent to bodies of water, often due to erosion, flooding, and water level changes
Depending on which type of property line dispute you’re attempting to resolve, you may need to utilize a combination of strategies, including direct negotiation, mediation, and legal action. In some cases, a property owner may even need to file a property line dispute claim, which we’ll discuss below.
How to File a Property Line Dispute Claim
If you are involved in a property line dispute with your neighbor, it is important to understand that there are many different ways to resolve it without taking legal action. In most cases, it is a good idea to attempt to resolve the dispute through direct communication, or through mediation with a neutral third party.
However, an amicable resolution isn’t always on the table, in which case you may need to pursue a property line dispute claim. Here are some of the steps you can take to get started:
- Seek legal advice. Before initiating legal action, it is essential to seek legal advice from a trusted real estate lawyer. Your attorney can examine your situation, lay out your legal options, and help you find the best path forward.
- File a complaint. If your attorney determines you have grounds for a property dispute line claim, they will help you file a complaint in the appropriate court. Your complaint should include several pieces of key information, including supporting evidence, the legal remedy you are seeking, and more.
- Notify your neighbor. After your complaint has been filed, your neighbor must be formally notified. This is typically done through a process server.
- Engage in the legal process. After your neighbor has been served legal documents, they will have an opportunity to respond. During this time, you and your attorney may engage in pre-trial negotiations, exchange relevant information and evidence with the opposing party, and prepare for trial.
- Consider alternative dispute resolution. There are many opportunities throughout the legal process to resolve the dispute outside of a courtroom. Depending on the trajectory of your particular case, you may want to keep an open mind to arbitration or mediation.
- Take your case to court. If no settlement is reached during the pre-trial process, you may need to take your case to court in order to secure a favorable outcome. Using the evidence they’ve gathered through investigation, your attorney will present a compelling argument that supports your claim.
- Enforce the court’s ruling. If the court rules in your favor or you reach a settlement, the final step is to enforce the court’s order or settlement agreement.
Keep in mind that each jurisdiction has specific legal procedures for resolving property line disputes. Your attorney should be knowledgeable about the local regulations and requirements applicable to your case.
Property Line Dispute Lawyer FAQ
Property line disputes can be deceptively complex. If you have questions about your property dispute claim, the best way to find answers is by speaking with a knowledgeable property line dispute lawyer. In the meantime, check out the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
• What’s the difference between encroachment and trespassing?
Encroachment and trespassing are two commonly cited reasons for neighbor disputes. Although they both involve a violation of a neighbor’s piece of property, they are very different. Whereas encroachment involves constructing past a property line, trespassing could be as simple as walking across a neighbor’s property. In some cases, trespassing may also include harvesting crops, hunting or fishing, or allowing livestock to graze on their property.
• Who pays for a boundary line survey?
In most cases, the person requesting the boundary line survey is the one who ends up paying for it. However, neighbors who are on good terms with each other may agree to split the cost.
• How do courts decide boundary line disputes?
Before ruling in a property line dispute case, the court will evaluate various types of evidence, including the official survey. The court may also take into account the nature of the alleged violation, such as a neighbor’s reason for encroachment, as well as the length of time of an alleged encroachment.
• How do I find the best property line dispute lawyers near me?
Instead of Googling “property line dispute lawyers near me,” do yourself a favor and reach out for recommendations first. Speak to your friends and family about their experiences with real estate attorneys, and if that doesn’t work, read online reviews. The best property line dispute lawyer for you is one with experience winning cases like yours, who has a stellar reputation among past clients, and who will offer you a free initial case evaluation.
Estavillo Law Group: Property Line Dispute Lawyers in California
If you are engaged in a property line dispute with a neighbor, don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to navigate it alone. A dedicated property line dispute attorney in San Francisco can evaluate your case, lay out your legal options, and help you choose the best path forward. Ready to get started? The trusted attorneys at Estavillo Law Group are here to help. Contact us online or call our law firm at (888) 982-0599 to schedule a free consultation.