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Solving Boundary Line Issues

Disputes over real estate boundaries can be some of the most contentious lawsuits. Most people are very possessive of every square foot of land they own or think that they own. When two neighbors claim a contested piece of land, their emotions run high and legal documents often are exchanged. 


Whether disputes result from prior inaccurate surveys, defective measurements by prior landowners, poorly drafted legally descriptions, improperly placed fence lines, or changes in roadways it doesn't make the process to resolve the boundary dispute any easier. While boundary lines are normally based upon the legal description of your property as set forth in your deed, there are situations when the boundary line may end up being different than what is described in your deed or one reflected by a survey.

You need an attorney experienced in boundary line disputes with the ability to provide straight forward advice, creative options, and understands when you need to be aggressive.

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To succeed on an adverse possession claim, a plaintiff must prove, “by clear and convincing evidence, an actual, open, hostile, continuous, and exclusive possession for the requisite period of time which, under our statute, is 15 years.”

Compart v. Wolfstellar, 906 N.W.2d 598, 602 (Minn. Ct. App. 2018), review denied (Apr. 17, 2018)

It is the adverse claimant's burden “to come forward with the essential facts establishing the elements of adverse possession. The evidence must be strictly construed and amount to clear and positive proof before title by adverse possession will be granted.”

Compart v. Wolfstellar, 906 N.W.2d 598, 602 (Minn. Ct. App. 2018), review denied (Apr. 17, 2018)

There is also a statutory requirement that, in certain instances, the adverse possessor must pay property taxes on the disputed parcel for “at least five consecutive years” during the period of adverse possession. Minn. Stat. § 541.02.

Compart v. Wolfstellar, 906 N.W.2d 598, 602 (Minn. Ct. App. 2018), review denied (Apr. 17, 2018)

Hostile possession “does not refer to personal animosity or physical overt acts against the record owner of the property.” Ehle, 293 Minn. at 190, 197 N.W.2d at 462. Rather, hostility only requires that one “enter and take possession of the lands as if they were his own, and with the intention of holding for himself to the exclusion of all others.” Thomas v. Mrkonich, 247 Minn. 481, 484, 78 N.W.2d 386, 388 (1956) (quotation omitted).

Compart v. Wolfstellar, 906 N.W.2d 598, 603 (Minn. Ct. App. 2018), review denied (Apr. 17, 2018)

In New York, there is a legal principle known as the "doctrine of practical location." The so-called "practical location" of a boundary results from a long acquiescence by neighbors in a clearly demarcated line understood by them-for over 10 years-as being the actual dividing line of their land. If this acquiescence continues for over 10 years, then regardless of what the deeds says or what a survey ends up determining, this demarcated line can end up being the actual boundary line.

In Jakubowicz v. Solomon, a New York case decided in 2013, the plaintiffs sued the defendant asserting that the defendant's driveway encroached upon their property. It was demanded that the driveway be removed. In support of their position that the driveway was located on their property, the plaintiffs relied upon the description of the property lines set forth in the parties' deeds. The defendant argued that, notwithstanding what the deeds said, a hedgerow and chain-link fence demarcated the true boundary line under the "practical location" doctrine.

A motion for a summary judgment was made by the plaintiffs who argued that, based upon the deeds, they were entitled to a decision in their favor without the necessity of a trial. The trial court found that a trial was warranted. A New York appellate court reviewed the decision and concluded that the trial court was correct. The Appellate Court found that the evidence suggested that the parties' predecessors in interest may well have acquiesced in making the location of the hedgerow and chain-link fence the boundary line.

Accordingly, the appellate court sent the matter back to the lower court for a trial. The Jakubowicz case demonstrates that there are times when neighbors' acquiescence may supersede boundary lines established by a survey.

Importantly, always stay calm and polite when discussing a boundary line issue with a neighbor.

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