Boundary Line Disputes

Disputes often arise when a fence or structure has been constructed on a property without the aid of a surveyor and at some later date a survey is performed which reveals that the improvements encroach upon the neighbor’s property. 

Under the doctrine of adverse possession, a party may establish title to property beneath an encroaching structure or inside an encroaching fence line, if the adverse possession has continued for ten years or more without the consent of the legal owner and in a manner that is open and hostile to the interest of that owner. 

Under the doctrine of boundary by acquiescence, a fence or other improvement can be deemed to establish the boundary between two properties, which differs from the survey boundary, if the owners over time have agreed or understood by their words and/or actions that their boundary is marked by the fence or other physical elements.  To establish a boundary by adverse possession or by acquiescence, a claimant must commence a quiet title action in Superior Court.  If there is no dispute about a boundary which differs from the survey boundary, neighboring property owners can resolve the discrepancy and clear their title of any questions about the encroachment by doing a lot line adjustment or, in some cases, recording a boundary line agreement.

Determining whether a party can establish a claim for adverse possession or boundary by acquiescence can be complicated.  The outcome in any case will be determined by the admissible evidence and the application of law to the facts of the case.  Thus when one believes the doctrines of adverse possession or boundary by acquiescence may apply to a particular property, it is wise to consult an attorney. 

We have handled dozens of boundary disputes and have found that in an initial consultation we can usually assess whether a claim under one of these doctrines would be recognized by the court, or advise the client concerning what additional factual proof must be obtained or legal research conducted.