How Are Boundary Disputes Settled?

boundary dispute
Published On: May 17, 2022

Disagree on the Property Line with Your Neighbor?

You’ve finally saved enough money for the home improvement project of your dreams – a spa-like retreat in your backyard, complete with a new patio, hot tub, outdoor furniture, and a garden trellis! Hurray! But just as you start the project, your neighbor claims you are violating the boundary lines and a portion of your planned patio would be on his property.

You’re a good neighbor, though, and wouldn’t have planned your project to trespass onto your neighbor’s land and are confident the project is 100% on your property. What should you do? Let’s take a look at the different types of boundary disputes, ways to settle them, and if title insurance covers a boundary dispute.

Types of Boundary Disputes

Boundary disputes, also called property line disputes, are a common occurrence for a homeowner. This occurs when two parties disagree on where the invisible property lines define who owns what property. Property lines are detailed in a property deed and show where one property ends and the other begins.

There are two types of property line disputes – encroachment and trespassing.

  • Encroachment: Encroachment occurs when one property owner crosses over into a neighboring property line, either with a structure or extending some kind of feature. A structural encroachment may occur if your neighbor puts a shed on the corner of his property and it extends into your property. An even simpler example is the branches on a tree in your yard growing and extending overtop of your neighbor’s property.
  • Trespassing: Trespassing is different from encroachment and refers to the unauthorized use of your land. A very basic example is local children cutting through your yard to get to a bus stop or to go visit a friend. Assuming the kids didn’t realize they were on your property, this can be considered innocent trespassing. Defiant trespassing or criminal trespassing, on the other hand, occurs when someone repeatedly uses your land after being asked to stay away.

How to Settle Property Line Disputes

While boundary disputes can get messy, there are ways to settle them. Here are several tips on what to do if you find yourself in a property line dispute with your neighbor.

  • Talk to Your Neighbors: This is the very first step to take if you have an encroachment or trespassing concern with your neighbors. Ask your neighbor to stop construction on their project if you are worried it is on your property or ask them about taking care of their tree that is shedding limbs into your yard. If you both can come to an agreement on the issue, you can save a lot of time and money by keeping things out of court.
  • Add Signage or Fences to Your Property: If you live in a rural area or have a few acres of land, you may experience trespassers. Put up signs like “Private Property” or “No Trespassing” to notify anyone passing by that the land is not for public use. If you want to further define your property line, adding a fence can help minimize boundary disputes – just make sure it is on your own property!
  • Conduct a Title Search: If you and your neighbor cannot settle the boundary dispute with a conversation, your next step is to conduct a title search. A title search is an investigation into public records to confirm the property’s legal owner. Title searches are typically performed when buying a home, however, can be done at any time to determine property ownership. After the title search is complete, you will receive a report that lists any potential encumbrances.
  • Hire a Surveyor: A land surveyor can give you the most accurate assessment of your property line. Using specialized equipment, the surveyor will visit your property and carefully measure the land based on public records. If you or your neighbor are planning any large construction projects, you will likely be required to have a land survey completed.
  • Hire an Attorney: If all else fails, you may need to consult with an attorney to settle a property line dispute. While this may not help with long-term neighborhood relationships, it can help bring the dispute to a close. Oftentimes homeowners go this route if their neighbors are uncooperative or unresponsive to other methods.

Does Title Insurance Cover Boundary Disputes?

Title insurance is designed to protect lenders and buyers from any defects in a title that could cause a financial loss. During a real estate transaction, lender’s title insurance is required, and owner’s title insurance is optional, although recommended.

Owner’s title insurance is issued when a title is deemed ‘clean’ after a title search. It protects homeowners from future ownership disputes caused by title defects. There are two types of owner’s title insurance – basic and enhanced.

A basic title insurance policy covers issues like claims against the property, mistakes on the public record, unknown heirs, fraud, forgery, and defective recording of documents. A basic policy may not cover boundary disputes, which is why many homeowners opt for an enhanced owner’s title insurance policy. An enhanced policy may cover more comprehensively the issues in a basic policy plus boundary disputes, encroachments, liens, lack of access to the property, subdivision violations, and more.

Your Local Title Company in York, Pa.

Find yourself in a boundary dispute with a neighbor? Reach out to Watermark Land Transfer for help. We can conduct a 60-year title search to help you determine your property’s boundaries. Our title search will include a review of public records and a report that identifies potential title issues you can discuss with your neighbor.

No boundary dispute but starting the home buying search? Keep us in mind to serve your title and real estate settlement needs. Our team of experienced title agents, settlement agents, and commissioned notary publics is here to be your advocate for the entire process. We offer concierge-level real estate settlement services and are ready to help you have a stress-free experience. Contact us online or call 223.848.3546.

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