Uncertain property lines, misplaced fences, and unrecorded easements are just some of the issues that can arise when you own a piece of real estate. While a friendly conversation with a neighbor might solve some problems, there are times when the only solution is to retain an attorney.
Boundary lines disputes
Boundary line problems can arise from a variety of factors, such as unclear or conflicting surveys, old deeds, and even fences being installed in the wrong location unintentionally.
The first step in solving a boundary dispute is to look at the relevant documents that created the alleged problem, which may entail a full title search to obtain current deed information, plats, and other documents of record that may shed light on how the issue arose. If no recent survey has been done, it is advisable to obtain one from a qualified surveyor. Should the case proceed to Court, this survey can be used as evidence at trial.
The next step normally involves contacting the other party or their attorney to see if a compromise can be reached. It may also involve the use of a mediator to try and reach a compromise. If no agreement can be reached, it may be necessary to file an action in court where a judge or jury may decide the facts.
Easements are rights given to other parties to use a portion or tract of land to cross over or pass through in order to provide access to another portion of land. The most common easements are for utilities in which you (or another property owner before you) gives permission for utility companies to place poles, pipes, or other useful improvements on your land.
Sometimes a piece of property might be landlocked, that is without access to a road, and an easement might be granted to that property owner to cross your land so that they can have access to theirs.
The size and scope of the easement and the responsibility to maintain the easement should be specified in a deed somewhere in the chain of title, whether that is the current deed, a prior one, or a secondary deed that specifically grants the easement. A title search should be able to find any easements of record in the County Clerk’s office.
Problems generally arise when easements are unrecorded (e.g. prior property owners always allowed another person to cross their land) or when they are recorded but too general in size, scope, or responsibility of maintenance.
The easiest solution to solving an easement problem is to negotiate with the other party, whether directly or through an attorney, and then have an attorney draft a deed of easement that codifies the compromise. Sometimes negotiations may involve a mediation in which both parties attempt to come to a compromise with the assistance of a neutral third party. Should none of those methods work, it may be necessary to file a Circuit Court action and have a judge or jury determine the solution.
One of our attorneys can help talk you through these options and can also help you understand the benefits and risks with proceeding with a court case.