Boundary Issues

Many legal disputes arise from trees, fences, structures, docks, driveways, along your lot lines.  The best advice within this article might be to introduce yourself to your neighbor as soon as you can since getting along with neighbors makes any legal issue easier to solve.  Even if neighbors get along, things can change when one of you moves. At that time, a survey or title search might reveal issues that neither neighbor worried about but now a closing will force you to agree on some legal issue.

Your neighbor may try to take advantage of your need to complete a closing.  In other words, if you need something from your neighbor and time is of the essence since a closing is scheduled, your neighbor might ask for an unreasonable settlement as they know you are now desperate to close.  The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead. If you plan on selling your house next Spring, for example, talk with an experienced realtor, attorney or surveyor now and try and predict what issues could come up at closing and work on solutions now, not later.

As to potential issues and solutions, they often relate to things on the ground that don’t match legal descriptions of record.  If the stairs down to the dock and dock itself, for example, cross over your lot line, you either need to move all of that on to your land or get a deed or easement from your neighbor to confirm of record that you have the right to use those improvements as now situated.  To entice your neighbor to sign, money is often exchanged as well. Most fail to understand what or why you are paying your neighbor. You are not buying this land at fair market value, you instead paying your neighbor to avoid the costs of litigation. Make sure you fully understand your rights before you make such a deal.

Stepping back from these ideas of how to solve a boundary problem, it’s best to avoid in the first place by having a survey and knowing your lot lines.  That sounds easy enough but often you buy a property with existing issues, whether you know that or not so if its an existing lot with neighbors just try to understand potential issues and resolve them as soon as you can.  The best time to resolve an issue is when neither party is in a hurry. Again hopefully you’ve gotten to know your neighbor and then work on formalizing (have a written agreement) any boundary issues so that each of you can avoid problems in the future.

Please send any request for topic suggestions to  Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know.  Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.