Property Boundaries, Lines and Neighbors FAQ
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Chris Meyers, Esq. | Last reviewed November 25, 2021
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If you recently purchased a new home, or you are planning to build a fence or building on your property, it's vital that you know exactly where your property boundaries lie. This article answers some of the most commonly asked questions about property boundaries.
Frequently Asked Questions About Property Boundaries
- Where can I find information that will tell me my exact property boundaries?
- Can my neighbor and I simply agree on where the boundary should be?
- What remedies do I have if my neighbor starts to use my property?
Where Can I Find Information That Will Tell Me My Exact Property Boundaries?
You may be able to find the property markers or boundary monuments yourself. They will be located at the corners of your property. Often these are metal pins or stakes buried 6"-10" below the surface at each corner. The markers should be shown on the land survey. You can use a shovel and a metal detector to find them. You can also reference the description in your deed and walk the boundaries of your property
You may find information about how to find markers on properties like yours by visiting the section of your city's website that deals with construction and permits.
If you are experienced enough to read and understand a land survey, you can request a copy of the land survey or subdivision plot from your county clerk's office. These documents are required to have detailed information regarding where your property boundaries are, but they are complex and are written for professional surveyors.
If you want to know exactly where your property boundaries are, hire a licensed land surveyor. he or she will come out to your land and place markers on the boundary lines of your property. You can find licensed land surveyors in your area by searching the internet or visiting your town hall and asking city staff who does surveys in your area. (In rural communities there may be only one surveyor who handles a large area.)
In most situations, the cost of a land survey is dictated by the size of the land that is to be surveyed, whether there is an accurate subdivision map already existing, geographic location, and the last time the land was surveyed.
The cost of a survey typically starts at $500 and goes upwards into the thousands of dollars. If your land has not been surveyed for a long time, or if there are multiple existing survey maps that conflict with each other, you can expect to pay more.
Can My Neighbor and I Simply Agree Where the Boundary Should Be?
If you and your neighbor have agreed where you both want the property boundaries to be, then you can make a "lot line agreement," also called a "lot line adjustment agreement." These agreements are official and binding by making and signing deeds that describe in detail the agreed upon property line.
Before you proceed, check your local zoning and subdivision ordinances to make sure your new lot will be in compliance. Some communities require lots of a certain size before they allow animals or extra buildings. Even a small loss of property could create an unanticipated problem. You may need to appear before your town's planning commission or governing board to get your lot line adjustment approved.
If you or your neighbor are still both paying off mortgages on your properties, you will probably need to consult with an attorney before making a lot line agreement. Your mortgage is signed with a description of the property. If you execute a deed without the bank's approval, you are in breach of your mortgage. You will need a loan modification. You will be responsible for any costs associated with the modification.
After signing the deed, you will need to file it with the county land records office. This office, which is sometimes known by names such as the County Recorder's Office, or the Land Registry Office, will file the deed and make it available for public viewing upon request. This gives notice to any future purchaser of the land of the new, agreed-upon property boundaries.
What Remedies Do I Have if My Neighbor Starts to Use My Property?
If you think that your neighbor is starting to use your land, even if it's just a minor thing like building a fence in the wrong location or installing a drainage pipe that crosses the property line, you need to act immediately.
Property boundaries are very important when it comes to the use of land, and even a small encroachment by your neighbor onto your land may result in consequences that you cannot foresee.
For instance, if your neighbor builds a fence or a new driveway that comes onto your property by a few inches, this may be enough for a title company to refuse to issue insurance when it comes time to sell your house.
Also, many states have laws that allow a person who uses another's land for a long enough time to gain a legal right to use the land. In some cases, they gain ownership of that land through adverse possession.
As with most situations, the best option is to start talking with your neighbor as soon as you notice the encroachment. The neighbor may have made a simple mistake and will correct the error.
If your neighbor does not want to cooperate, your best option is to point out the deed showing the property boundaries, or to hire a surveyor to come out and place new property line markers. If the neighbor does not stop building on your land, hire a lawyer and bring a trespass lawsuit. A judge can issue an order to force your neighbor to stop building on your land.
Have More Questions About Property Boundaries? Ask a Lawyer
Property disputes can get heated quickly. The best way to keep a dispute from getting out of hand is to understand your property rights. Contact a skilled real estate lawyer near you to discuss your situation and learn how they can help resolve your matter decisively.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified attorney to help you address difficulties with your neighbors.