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Property Boundaries, Lines and Neighbors FAQ

Where can I find information that will tell me my exact property boundaries?

If you are experienced enough to read and understand a land survey, you can simply request a copy of the land survey or subdivision plot from your city clerk's office. These documents are required to have detailed information regarding where your property boundaries are. However, these documents are also quite complex and are written so that professional surveyors can read and understand them.

Most people often find it too difficult to tell exactly where their property boundaries are without hiring a professional to do a land survey. If you decide to hire a licensed land surveyor, he or she will come out to your land and place markers that mark the boundary lines of your property. You can find a listing of licensed land surveyors in your area by simply consulting your local phone book or the internet. It is often best to call a few such companies, explain what you want them to do, and then hire the one you think best for the job.

In most situations, the cost of such a land survey is dictated by the size of the land that is to be surveyed, whether there is an accurate subdivision map already existing, geographic location, and the last time the land was surveyed. Costs for such surveys routinely range between $500 and thousands of dollars. If you land has not been surveyed for a long period of time, or if there are multiple existing survey maps that conflict with each other, you can expect to pay more.

Can my neighbor and I simply agree where the boundary should be?

Yes. If you and your neighbor have agreed where you both want the property boundaries to be, then you both can make a "lot line agreement," also called a "lot line adjustment agreement." These agreements are made official and binding by making and signing deeds that describe in detail the agreed upon property line. However, it is important to check your local zoning and subdivision laws before making this agreement to make sure you are in compliance.

If you and/or your neighbors are still both paying off mortgages on your properties, however, then you will probably need to consult with an attorney before making a lot line agreement. Your bank may prevent you from making such an agreement and instead insist that you hire a licensed surveyor to survey the land.

After signing the deed, you will need to file it with the county land records office. This office, which is sometimes known by names such as the County Recorder's Office, or the Land Registry Office, will file the deed and make it available for public viewing upon request. This gives notice to any future purchaser of the land of the new, agreed-upon property boundaries.

What remedies do I have if my neighbor starts to use my property?

When you think that your neighbor is starting to use your land, even if it just a minor thing like building a fence in the wrong location, you need to act immediately. Property boundaries are very important when it comes to the use of land, and even a small encroachment by your neighbor onto your land may result in consequences that you cannot foresee.

For instance, if your neighbor builds a fence or a new driveway that comes onto your property by a few inches, this may be enough for a title company to refuse to issue insurance when it comes time to sell your house. Also, many states have laws that allow a person who uses another's land for a long enough time period to actually gain a legal right to continue to use the land, and in some cases, even gain ownership of that land.

As with most situations, the best option is to start talking with your neighbor as soon as you notice the encroachment. In many situations, the neighbor will have made a simple mistake in his construction and will probably rectify the error. However, if your neighbor does not want to cooperate, your best option is to point out the deed showing the property boundaries, or even hire a surveyor to come out and place new property line markers. If the neighbor does not stop building on your land, hire a lawyer immediately and get a judge to issue an order that will force your neighbor to stop building on your land until you can bring a trespass lawsuit.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney to help you address
difficulties with your neighbors.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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