Property Boundaries 101

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Dealing with neighbors can be a big headache when you do not know where your property boundaries are. In old and new neighborhoods, homeowners need to know where the boundaries to their properties are especially when it comes to building fences, building additions, and buying and selling a home. Significant disputes have caused problems between homeowners, especially when older homes have been bought and sold several times. In many cases, existing fence lines may not have been properly surveyed. To avoid unfriendly disputes with neighbors, it is in your best interest to know what your property boundaries are and to be aware of your rights as property owners.

Most communities have established fence ordinances. If you live in an association, the board most likely has established rules about fences, too. In most cases, the fence rules and ordinances are set based on the location of the fence as well as the height and materials. Many communities have special ordinances set for fences around swimming pools, too. While some associations may have rules about the style of fence you can build, most communities do not care if the fence is ugly or not.

Prior to building a fence, it is wise to get learn about the property boundaries on your lot. If you build a fence and it is on the boundary, you and your neighbor both own the fence – even if you pay for the entire thing. If the fence is completely on your property, then the fence is yours. In most cases, this means you can cut down tree limbs that hang over your fence, but not if the cutting will harm the tree. As the owner of the fence, it is your job to maintain it.

The property boundaries on your lot are always kept at one of two places, either the county offices or the city offices. They will have the precise layout of your plot. Unfortunately, the average homeowner does not know how to read the property map. It is in your best interest as a homeowner who wants to avoid any legal issues with neighbors to have a professional surveyor lay out the boundary lines before you begin adding a fence. Some older homes might have more than one survey to work from, so be sure that you have all of the paperwork in your possession prior to any building that could encroach on a neighbor’s land. The cost of hiring a professional surveyor will be much less than hiring a lawyer for legal defense.

Believe it or not, a properly line can be changed; but, it does require the agreement of the parties on both sides of the line. When fences cross into a neighbor’s yard, homeowners can have difficulty selling their home because not all of the fence is in their yard. Using a a lot line agreement, neighbors can make subtle adjustments when necessary. Prior to making this agreement it is important to be sure it is allowed in your community or neighborhood. If the homeowners are still paying their mortgages, the bank might also have to get involved in the lot line agreement. Many banks will nix these agreements immediately. If you do get permission from the banks and the neighbors, the new lines need to be recorded in the proper government location.

One of the most common reasons why neighbors have property line disputes is because of encroachment. This is when a structure crosses a property boundary. It is a good idea to know where these occur on your property from your neighbors or where your property crosses the line. When encroachment occurs, it can be challenging to sell a home. It can also be challenging to buy a home that is involved in an encroachment dispute. Sellers must disclose encroachments. Many people will settle disputes with lot line agreements; but in other instances, the disputes are settled in court.

Fences are not the only reason to have a survey performed. There are several other important reasons to have know exactly where your property lines lay. Some homeowners need to deal with rights-of-way and easements. These could impact your ability to get into and out of your driveway or for neighbors to have access to the street. This could affect the costs of plowing services if you need to have snow moved in the winter months. It can also affect who has access to what you think is you yard.

It is also important to know where your property boundaries are if you have any natural water features on your property. People who live on lakes, ponds, rivers, and other waterways might be responsible for cleaning portions of the water way. They might also need to know about wetland rules when it comes to landscaping and home improvement projects.

Any homeowners who share driveways, walls, and overhangs, as well as rights-of-support should know their boundaries. Any property that is shared can become problematic, especially when it comes to expensive maintenance projects. When you do not know what belongs to you, you have no idea what your responsibility really is.

If you live in an older home, you might actually have a burial plot on your property. With a properly done survey, you will know exactly what property is your and what is actually in that property.

There are plenty of other perfectly good reasons to have absolute knowledge of the boundaries of your property. When it comes to maintaining good relationships with your neighbors, knowledge is definitely powerful. If you are interested in more knowledge, then feel free to contact me anytime at I am ready to be your resource in this world of real estate and homeownership. Your Power Is Now!

Eric Lawrence Frazier, MBA

President and CEO

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