Land Boundaries And Neighbors
Land Boundaries And Neighbors
Howard Gould (Neighbor Law Expert, Finestone & Richter) gives expert video advice on: How can I find the boundaries of my property?; What should I do if my neighbor is building a structure on my property? and more...
Can my neighbors and I set the boundaries of our property?
To a certain extent you're able to set the boundaries of you property, but it depends on what the local laws are, what the state laws are, and also exactly what it is you're trying to do. Usually what happens is there's an uncertainty or a disagreement between the parties and they'll try to come to some agreement and fix the boundary line. In other circumstances, it may be that the lot originally set-up is really not functional and the parties would like to swap a piece of land with each other. So, you may come to some agreement to do that. When you come to those agreements, you need to keep certain things in mind. What really is going to be functional for you and for your neighbour? You're going to have to go through the surveying/engineering process. Somebody's going to have to do a survey; they're going to have to give a precise legal description of what the new boundary lines are going to be for each property. The other thing that you're going to have to do, is that you're going to have to contact your title company because you're going to want your title company to insure your new boundary lines. You're going to have to talk to whoever your lender is; they're going to have a mortgage or deed of trust on your property, and it's got a clause in it that will potentially allow them to accelerate your loan if you give away part of your property and you no longer own it. So, you want to make certain that the lenders are in agreement that you can do this lot line adjustment that you want to go through with. You probably aren't going to have to deal with insurance issues, but you definitely want to be careful that you're not taking on some liability on something that needs special insurance coverage, like a swimming pool or something like that, where your insurance carrier would want to know about the new risk and possibly charge you a different premium. Another thing you need to be aware of when you ask, "Can we do sort of a land swap with the neighbour?", is that the city has something to say about this, and you may not always be able to do it. Everywhere, where you have a city involved, you're going to find that there are probably some lot size requirements; minimum lot size requirements. If you're giving away so much land that you don't meet those minimum lot size requirements, the city may not allow you to go forward with what you have in mind. You also need to make certain that there are no other state laws or local laws that would limit what you're trying to do. Sometimes there are physical limitations, such as I've described before, such as where the utilities are coming into your property, and the city may have something to say about the land swap you have in mind if the utilities to your property are no longer located on your property. So, there are some issues like that that you need to be aware of and that the city may take a look at. You also should understand, it's not going to be necessarily simple and quick or inexpensive. The engineering work, the surveying work is going to cost money; you have to decide who's going to pay for that. Going through the city process may take some time and money; sometimes people hire a lawyer or a former building department official (somebody who's called an expeditor) to assist them with the city process, so there are costs involved, and it may take you six months or even longer than that to get your lot line adjustment through the city process and eventually recorded. Obviously, you are going to have to have some document, some type of deed basically, that will be recorded, in order to complete the actual swap of the land with your neighbour.
Is it possible to make an agreement with my neighbor without involving the authorities?
First of all, in terms of the agreement you're going to use, there is what's called a quick claim deed, which says that I'm giving you whatever title I have. In other words, there's no warranties in it. Generally when you buy property you get what's called a warranty deed, and there's certain things that are promised to you in that deed, proof that the person giving it you actually owns what it is that they're deeding to you. And you're really probably going to be better off using a warranty deed, especially if you're paying any money for this property that you're getting from the neighbor. But you can do it with a quick claim agreement as well. This is something where you're best off getting some legal advice. But if you think about it, what are you going to put in that deed? That deed's got to describe the property that you're giving to the neighbor and if you're getting a deed from them, that deed's got to describe the property you're getting from the neighbor. You are not competent yourself to put in the legal description of that property. You're going to have to get a surveryor to tell you how that legal description must read. And then you have issues when you sell the property, the person buying it's going to want to know what they're getting. They may want to know that your title company approved this and that somebody's looked at it, either a lawyer or a title company or both, so you're best off talking to a title company, paying whatever premium's necessary to get insurance for the property you're now getting from the neighbor, and of course mention the issue about the lender because your lender could use an excuse to accelerate your loan, and if you got your loan when the interest rates were five percent and they're now seven percent, the last thing you want to see is your lender calling your loan, and you having to get a loan at a much higher interest rate with all the associated costs.
What should I do if my neighbor is building a structure on my property?
You're going to need to make certain that you know where the boundary line is. And if you never had a survey, you may want to get one before you approach the neighbor so that you're absolutely certain that he's encroaching onto your property. If he is building something that's on your property, you want to act on it right away. You want to, in a courteous reasonable way approach them and let them know that what they're doing is encroaching onto your property and that they need to stop what they're doing right away and redesign whatever they're project is, so that it won't be encroaching onto your property. If you don't get a positive response from them, you're going to want to put something in writing them promptly. Again, you may want to get the help of a lawyer to draft that. You may want the lawyer to actually write the letter, which sometimes will carry more weight with the neighbor. But you are going to want to have something in writing that documents that you've communicated to the neighbor and specifically what you've communicated to the neighbor. And that's the reason why you want to make sure you have your facts well in order and the evidence to support them if you need to at a later time.