Did You Know? The boundaries of a survey can be challenged in court under certain circumstances.
Some people seem to think that a survey map for a deed is a final, infallible decision on who owns what property. They’re wrong.
A survey can be defeated in court with a quiet title lawsuit when the parties share a boundary and both parties mistakenly believe that the boundary is where the parties’ property lines end. The concept is based on something lawyers call “boundary by the acquiescence.” The rationale is that it promotes stability and continuity of the title and boundary lines. After all, when two adjoining landowners recognize a boundary line for many years, it is unfair to change the lines.
Most boundary disputes usually involve a fence and a common story like this: one owner goes and gets a survey and then finds out his neighbor’s fence is on his land. He tears down the fence. The guy whose fence is torn down goes and sees a lawyer, who sues. When the trial comes, if there is evidence that the parties mistakenly believed the fence was the actual boundary for more than seven years, the judge will probably rule that the fence actually became the boundary. This is called “boundary by the acquiescence.” The judge will have the surveyor write a new deed showing that the line where the fence used to be will become the new boundary.
Boundary by the acquiescence is not limited to fences. It can also be applied when the owners use a treeline, irrigation ditches, landmark or other monument as the dividing line between properties. Usually, the Court will look at the parties conduct to determine what they thought was the actual boundary. For example, if both owners cut the grass up to the boundary or let their livestock graze up to the boundary, even if there’s no verbal agreement on what the boundary actually is, the judge will find that their conduct determined it.
The final requirement is that the boundary must be “fixed and certain.” These cases usually involve a fence, but they can also include tree lines, strings between pins, irrigation ditches, and even a faded white paint line.
This law is one of many reasons landowners are encouraged to get their property surveyed. If the problems are caught before the seven year cutoff, then perhaps the survey boundaries will not be disturbed.