Mine or yours? What to do in the event of a boundary dispute

In real estate law, boundary lines can be blurry, especially with older property deeds. A property with a long history might reference a landmark like a stream as a reference point for the boundary line. A problem may arise if that stream no longer exists. This is one of many scenarios that might lead to a boundary dispute.

Essentially, a boundary dispute is when two parties cannot agree on who owns the land where the property divide stands. There are a number of ways to handle a situation like this as a property owner.

How to resolve a dispute

  • Your first step should be to get your facts straight. Hire a professional to survey, appraise and perform a title search on the land to discover exactly what the legal documentation says about where the boundary is, who owns it and how much the piece of land in question is worth.
  • Discuss whether you have a strong claim with an experienced real estate attorney. They will advise you on the best course of action.
  • Open up a dialogue with your neighbor to see if you can resolve the dispute amicably between the two of you. If you can resolve the matter out of court, you will both save considerable time and money.
  • If communication with your neighbor is not going anywhere, it may be time to have your attorney send a demand letter requesting action or offering some kind of settlement. Be open about what you have discovered to facilitate more helpful discussion.
  • File a compliant in circuit court requesting a “quiet title.” This will initiate court proceedings in which a judge will determine who the land belongs to based on the evidence gathered by both parties.
  • Remember, settlement is always an option. It may be more cost-effective to simply pay your neighbor for the disputed land than to engage in court proceedings. It is important to weigh your options and decide what is best for you.

In an ideal scenario, you will never need to go to court for a boundary dispute. But if you and your neighbor cannot resolve your issues, choose an experienced real estate lawyer to represent your interests.