Depending on the location of your home, boundary disputes are common in the real estate market. What do you do when a neighbor crosses your line and starts working on their property? How can you legally establish your property boundaries? What should you do if there’s a dispute over where one person’s land ends and another person’s begins? These property line legal disputes can have a negative impact on both your time and your finances, especially if the dispute ends up in court.
Fortunately, with the help of an experienced attorney, there are some things you can do to prepare for these situations.
What Is Considered a Property Line Dispute?
A property line dispute is a legal disagreement between two or more parties over where a property line lies, directly relating to whether a neighbor’s structure lies on their land or crosses onto another owner’s land. While some lines are easy to define, such as fences and walls, others such as tree lines aren’t so obvious. Often, this is where neighbors have conflicting claims about what exactly constitutes a property line.
If your neighbor’s structure straddles that line, there could be trouble ahead. Learn what you can do when dealing with your property line disputes and how an attorney can help you get back into legal compliance.
Types of Property Lines in Arizona
Arizona has two different boundaries or right-of-way lines: Metes and bounds and corners and bearings. Metes and bounds means that properties are located by specifying each boundary point in relation to its neighbors regarding surveyed township land plats. Corners and bearings means that properties are located by specifying each boundary point in relation to a surveyed township plat.
There is no survey with metes and bounds property lines; both parties must agree on what their property line is (or has become). With corners and bearings property lines, there is a survey map showing your exact border location (even if it hasn’t been changed). To resolve differences about corner locations, you need to show one another survey evidence. Suppose you can’t find any evidence on file at your county recorder’s office. In that case, either party may request an official resurvey from their county clerk’s office for approximately $600-$800 depending on how many acres are involved.
Property line disputes can be caused by your neighbor building a fence or just by their trees reaching across your property. Most of these issues fall under Adverse Possession in Arizona, also known as Squatter’s Rights. This means that if your neighbor or someone else is using the land you own, they may gain ownership of it over time. The length of time varies in each case but typically takes up to 20 years. If you believe someone has infringed on your land, an experienced real estate attorney will be able to help resolve these disputes before they lead to more serious legal issues.
How To Determine If a Neighbor’s Encroachment is Considered Malicious?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to maliciousness, but some indicators might help you come to a conclusion. For example, let’s say your neighbor bought an old farmhouse for a steal and decided that he’d build a fence between his house and yours, encroaching on your land to save money. This is considered malicious.
On the other hand, if your neighbor was building a fence on their property but accidentally built it on your lot without realizing they were still two feet within their own property line, that wouldn’t be considered malicious because they didn’t purposefully try to encroach on your land – they simply made an honest mistake.
If you’ve deemed that your neighbor has acted in maliciousness, it is time to contact an attorney who can mediate on your behalf or take the issue to court. Before hiring an attorney, it is crucial that you record all relevant information regarding these property line disputes. This includes where they are crossing onto your land, how often they do so, and how much of your property their structures occupy. In addition, if possible, include photos and video recordings of them encroaching on your property for documentation purposes later on.
How Can I Avoid Property Line Disputes?
Arizona homebuyers may want to invest in boundaries lines that clearly define where their land begins and ends before disagreements arise. Reviewing zoning ordinances may also help buyers avoid potential land-use conflicts down the road. That said, there are specific time frames when pre-purchase surveys are required. Therefore, homeowners may want to consult with professionals before finalizing any real estate deals to have peace of mind that they’re abiding by Arizona law when installing fences or boundary markers outside their homes.
You can take a few precautions to avoid problems before they arise. First, make sure your property lines are clear and that you have proof of ownership for your property. Second, create a boundary agreement with any neighbors who share property lines. You don’t need to be legally obligated to establish an informal contract; a simple handshake might suffice, however it can be hard to prove in court. Third, keep copies of all necessary paperwork like deeds and mortgage statements in case there’s ever an issue down the road.
While these steps may seem obvious, they can help keep property disputes from occurring, saving you a headache and money. If there is still some uncertainty about boundaries or ownership, consult an Arizona real estate attorney before making any assumptions on how to proceed with your land and homeownership.
Find an Experienced Arizona Real Estate Attorney
If you feel that your neighbor has encroached on your property or believes they have a right to cross onto your land, then it is highly recommended that you contact an Arizona real estate attorney who is experienced with handling property line disputes. An attorney can advise you of what steps you should take in order to handle existing disputes as well as how to protect yourself and prevent issues.
Since 1995 Stephen J. Anthony has been the legal advocate of Arizona residents in real estate matters regarding:
- Financing disputes
- Title disputes
- Easement issues
- Property line disputes
- Commercial lease disputes
- Failure to disclose and breach of contract
Anthony Law Group will make sure that your best interests are fought for and will mediate or litigate on your behalf, depending on your situation’s needs. Contact us by calling (602) 362-2396 and schedule a consultation today.