Need some advice: property line is not what it seems

12 Replies

Hi Everyone,

  I recently found out my property line was not the actual fence line.  A new neighbor moved in next door and got their property surveyed for future landscape work. Come to find out almost along one entire side of the property, the existing fence line on our side (which has probably been there since the homes were built) is about 5 feet onto the neighbors property. Neighbors don't seem to have an issue with it. We don't either but I'm worried when we have to sell our property what the ramifications are going to be for us.

I was told this is what title insurance is for but I really don't know how that will impact us moving forward. Right now we do have some hardscape that is done by the fence so if the current or future neighbors ask for the fence line to be moved, I suppose title insurance will cover the cost of moving the fence and maybe the cost of redoing that portion of the hardscape? 

More than the logistics of what needs to be moved, I feel like I bought a piece of property based on specific criteria, lot size, etc etc and now I feel like I found out I got short changed. 

Any suggestions of what I should do if anything at this point to protect myself moving forward. Thanks!

This is not what title insurance is for.

If a survey had been undertaken at the time you acquired the property, this would have been discovered and dealt with at that time. 

You may want to file a quiet title action to obtain that strip of land. Consult with a local real estate attorney.

I didn't think getting property surveyed was a common thing to do when purchasing property. Thanks for the recommendation. 

@Esther Thomas

The title policy will not cover boundary lines unless a survey is done when a policy is issued. The policy will except that provision and note it as an exception on the policy. Some states and title companies have surveys required while others do not. 

You could go after the sellers but they may not of known either. 

If selling, You should disclose the 5 ft issue on your seller disclosure form.  

Love the quiet title suggestion from @Tom Gimer

Thank you for the reply. Could an easement be an option. If my neighbors don't care about that land boarding our properties, I'm wondering if that could be an option, just to ensure that they or no other future neighbors are going to request we readjust the property line or move the fence. 

Happens all the time. Your neighbors are ok with it...dont press the issue. If you want an easement you would in all fairness need to buy it from them. If the fence ever blows down, move it back. (That happens in Texas).

I would just let it go until you are ready to sell. Could be completely right but I had seen a neighbor with the survey going down the middle of her driveway based on the new purchaser next door. It turned out to be wrong. Stakes were high so they went to court. for you no one cares so just keep it in mind if you want to sell.

Do nothing, don't worry as suggested already. You bought it that way and so will the next buyer. If a problem comes up deal with it at the time.

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Don't do anything as long as no on is pushing the issue  --  this includes not making any additional improvements along what is or is not the property line

The contract to purchase the property should have included language dealing with the survey.  Typically, it requires the seller to produce it so you can avoid these problems.  If we are buying from a bank or auction, I advise my client to purchase a survey when buying the property, again so we can be aware of these issues.  

If you don't want to file a quiet title action to obtain the strip, you could also approach neighbor about buying it.

Hi @Esther Thomas ,

I would agree with the "let it go until it becomes an issue" crowd when it comes down to financial reasons. At this point you are encroaching on your neighbors land and they are paying taxes on it? i would in no way go for a title action or easement etc, because that will cost you one way or another. If you win, you have to pay them for the land/right of way, start paying higher taxes. Not to mention just started a scorched earth holy war with your new neighbors. If you lose you have to move your fence and hardscape and most likely pay to have their grass reinstalled. Plus all associated legal fees one way or the other.

Just my 2 cents and good luck in whatever you decide.

Originally posted by @Mike Cumbie :

Hi @Esther Thomas ,

I would agree with the "let it go until it becomes an issue" crowd when it comes down to financial reasons. At this point you are encroaching on your neighbors land and they are paying taxes on it? i would in no way go for a title action or easement etc, because that will cost you one way or another. If you win, you have to pay them for the land/right of way, start paying higher taxes. Not to mention just started a scorched earth holy war with your new neighbors. If you lose you have to move your fence and hardscape and most likely pay to have their grass reinstalled. Plus all associated legal fees one way or the other.

Just my 2 cents and good luck in whatever you decide.

Good points as well.

However, at some point, when there are other players involved, this is going to be an issue. If neighbor tries to sell, the buyer may not be so understanding or courteous. If Esther tries to sell, her buyer may want this resolved... and any of the expenses -- the price of the land itself, attorneys fees to litigate the issue, relocating her hardscape, etc. -- will likely cost more at that point. If this neighbor doesn't care, they don't place a high value on that strip. You might be surprised how small a pile of cash they would accept to convey it.

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