The prevailing ethos in our society is that one’s home is their castle. However, there may be two or more adjoining neighbors, each with their own property, who each have that same belief. In some cases, this may result in a boundary dispute between the neighbors, each of whom has their own competing claim. Regardless of how you address it, you will need to resolve a property dispute, and the real estate attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein P.C. can help.
Boundary Disputes Are Often Intense Disagreements
Boundary line disputes are among the most emotional disagreements that two people can have. Each is locked into their own position, and their financial interests are at stake. Each person may see the existence of the boundary dispute, and eventually the outcome of it, every time they look out their window or step outside their home.
In some cases, the property line between two neighbors may not have been properly marked. It may have been described improperly in the deed. It may have been demarcated many years ago, but the passage of time has obscured the true boundary. One neighbor may have ordered a survey in advance of work on their home, and the results came back different from what they previously thought. In other cases, one neighbor may simply be trying to move the boundary line onto the other’s property. Often in boundary disputes, each neighbor has a legitimate belief that they are the true owner of the property in dispute.
Property disputes can cause homeowners issues in various circumstances. If you try to sell your home and the boundary line is not settled, the property dispute can severely complicate the process and potentially result in the termination of the sale. Your property’s value could decrease if you lost any part of what you believe to be your property. And, you may be restricted from building additions to your home, adding to buildings on your property, accessing your property, or even constructing an inground pool.. Regardless of the impact, property disputes are contentious and stressful.
Examples of Georgia Property Disputes
Here are some common examples of boundary disputes in Georgia:
- Lot line disputes can occur when one owner obtains a survey of the land, and the border is not what they previously thought it was. Surveys may be performed at any time.
- A neighbor may put up a fence or build on what they believe is their property, and the other owner claims that the structure encroaches on their property line.
- One owner may need to cross the property of another owner to have access to a driveway, road, or an area, like a boat dock.
- One owner may claim that they have had unimpeded use of the other owner’s property for a certain period of time (without any objection) that allows them to either take title or keep using it in that way, like a driveway easement.
Property lines can be encroached upon in various ways. For example, one’s property can be invaded by a smell, light, or noise originating from their neighbor’s property. In these situations, the encroachment would be addressed by a nuisance lawsuit seeking damages and a court order requiring the neighbor to stop the offending conduct.
Your Options for Resolving Property Disputes
The best-case scenario is that your boundary dispute is resolved without litigation, but you should be prepared to take any action necessary in order to preserve your own property. Be careful about self-help measures because those may get you in trouble. You should only act with the advice and legal counsel of an experienced Georgia boundary dispute attorney.
It is crucial that you speak up if you believe your neighbor is encroaching on your property. In Georgia, a neighbor can begin to establish ownership over part of your land if they cross the boundary line and you do nothing to stop them. After seven years of silence another owner could jeopardize your ownership of the area that they have claimed as their own. For example, if the other owner builds a fence on what they believe to be the property line, it could become the property line if you do not say anything for a prolonged period of time. Preferably, you should do something beyond simply speaking with them to register your opposition in order to have concrete evidence to back up a future legal claim.
How to Address a Boundary Dispute in Court
Boundary disputes are somewhat different from traditional lawsuits. In most lawsuits, the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages for the harm they claim they suffered. But in a boundary dispute, a plaintiff is asking a court to take action to end the dispute. Usually, courts prefer to award monetary damages because that is the most effective and expedient legal remedy. In a boundary dispute, money does not usually address the issue(s) at the heart of the dispute, requiring a judge to take other actions and order other kinds of legal relief.
Two of the most common remedies one may seek in court over a boundary dispute are:
- An injunction, in which the court would issue an order that would end a trespass or give one the right to use the property of another.
- A declaratory order that would set the boundary between the two properties.
In some cases, a plaintiff may also seek monetary damages for the harm that any trespass has done to their property, but that is often secondary to the issue of determining the exact boundary lines.
How Courts Will Decide Boundary Disputes
First, a court will look at the exact language of the deeds of the involved properties to determine the exact boundary between them. The court can only look outside the deed to other evidence if the terms and descriptions in the deed are unclear.
The deeds may contain the following information that could help the court determine the boundary:
- Descriptive terms
- References to monuments and landmarks
- Place names
However, the passage of time could complicate things. For example, a deed could make reference to a tree that has not been standing for years. Then, your attorney would need to make intuitive arguments from other evidence to support your theory that where you claim the boundary is matches where the previous owners intended the boundary to be.
Neighbors Strongly Believe in Their Own Property Rights
Boundary disputes can get emotional quickly. For good reason, people are heavily invested in their own property, both from a personal and financial standpoint. They do not want others encroaching on what they believe is theirs. Nonetheless, it is crucial to remain calm when engaged in any type of property dispute.
You should first try speaking with your neighbor to attempt to resolve the dispute. You can do this on your own, but if it cannot be done calmly and civilly, you should do so with the help of an attorney. Your real estate attorney can present your position to the other side.
A Georgia Real Estate Attorney Can Help Resolve a Boundary Dispute
One helpful tool that you can use to help you resolve a boundary dispute, short of litigation, is hiring a mediator to help you and the adjoining property owner discuss the issue. Sometimes, a mediator is able to help break an impasse by finding points of common agreement or working through difficult areas.
An attorney can also help you with other creative solutions that can resolve the problems. For example, one neighbor may get the right to an easement on the other’s property in exchange for cash payments, either upfront or over time. Oftentimes, that is the end result of many property disputes, so you will still need to work with your neighbor.
However, you may be left with no choice other than to go to court over the matter. If you do not resolve your boundary dispute, you may not be able to sell your property. In addition, the value of your property may decrease. Certain disputes can only go on for so long until you must take legal action.
How a Property Line and Boundary Disputes Attorney Can Help You
You should immediately contact an attorney once you believe you are involved in a boundary dispute. An experienced boundary disputes lawyer can do the following for your case:
- Locate historical land records for your property that may reveal the true border.
- Help you request a boundary survey for your property.
- Communicate with the neighbor or their attorney on your behalf.
- Help you determine the most effective legal remedy to resolve the situation.
- Take your case to court in order to persuade a judge to adopt your interpretation of the boundary.
- Give you advice to prevent the adverse possession of your property.
If you are left to your own devices and counsel, you may make a mistake that could complicate matters. Once their emotions get to a particular point, people tend to get locked into positions. Hiring an attorney could help you remain flexible and pragmatic in the face of a difficult dispute.
Contact a Georgia Property Line and Boundary Disputes Attorney Today
The Law Office of Mark Weinstein P.C. advises and advocates for property owners when they are involved in boundary disputes. What you do in a boundary dispute can affect your property rights permanently, so it is crucial that you act intentionally and with forethought. Contact us early in the process, so we can give you timely and crucial advice.