It is said that a person’s home is their castle. Some further reinforce that assertion by putting up a fence that supposedly provides a demarcated boundary. But what happens if the fence is not an accurate representation of the property line? Sometimes inaccuracies are strategic – they put the fence wholly on their property, so they have control over the size, maintenance and style of the fence. Others may put their fence on your property or build a structure that is partially on your property because it suits their purposes or by accident. Good fences make good neighbors, but bad ones often lead to heated (and expensive) disputes that seem like a good old-fashioned border war.
Steps for settling a border war
These measures can help avoid a dispute:
- Do a property survey: Surveys accurately determine the property line when someone buys or sells the property. Properties with old deeds can be inaccurate or obsolete, so it is best to get a new and accurate as possible survey to avoid problems.
- Quiet title lawsuit: This can occur when the survey does not resolve the dispute. The property owners can then request that a judge determine the property lines.
- Agreement on boundary lines: Rather than going to court, the neighbors will agree upon a physical object as the property line, such as that fence, markers or a natural detail like water. The owners of the adjoining lands would then sign a quitclaim deed that says the neighbor owns property on the other side of the agreed-upon line.
- Adverse possession: While property ownership usually is in writing, the owner may need to assert ownership if a neighbor (or stranger) lives on or maintains the property over a long period. The occupant may then argue that they have earned the right to use or continue to use the property.
The law protects both sides
Some may wish to settle the matter outside of court, but this only works if the two sides have a working relationship. Moreover, owners should avoid threats of violence as a solution because these actions will lead to more trouble. Both sides benefit more from working with experienced attorneys who handle real estate disputes here in Texas.