Many property owners have a difficult time determining the boundary line between their property and an adjacent property. Often, neighbors will agree on a property line even though it may not be the true property line. This can lead to many problems because of inconsistencies at a later date. A boundary line, also known as a property line, marks the legal boundaries of a plot of land. It is usually established by the measurements of a professional surveyor. However, more recently, GPS technology is also being used to establish property lines. Property lines often follow natural features of the land, such as rivers, ditches, creeks, or trees.

In many cases, property lines are described in the actual recorded title to the property. Property line disputes are common between adjoining neighbors, businesses that are near each other, and instances where a business is located very near to residential property.

Can My Neighbor and I Agree on a Boundary Line?

Yes. Two neighbors can agree on where they want the boundary line to be. After both parties agree to the boundary line, they will make a “lot line agreement,” which would then be legally binding between the parties. These lot line agreements are made official and binding just like signing a contract or signing a deed that describes in detail the agreed boundary line. It is also important that the neighbors check the local zoning and subdivisions lines before making any kind of boundary agreement just to make sure its not overlapping anything and they are in compliance.

Will an Agreed Boundary Line Be Legally Binding?

Any boundary line agreement made between two adjoining neighbors will be enforceable even if a surveyor later determines the true boundary line.  However, the agreed boundary line must have been effective because of confusion or uncertainty as to the true boundary line.

What Are the Elements of an Agreed Boundary Doctrine?

There are various elements that are necessary for an agreed boundary line. These elements include:

  • Uncertainty as to the true boundary line;
  • Landowners must agree on the boundary line;
  • Owners must affirm and act as though the new boundary line is the true boundary line; and
  • Owners should identity the new boundary line. This can usually be accomplished by erecting a fence or some other identification.

If one of these elements is not met the agreed boundary line might not be legally enforceable.

Is the Agreed Boundary Enforceable against Future Parties?

The agreed boundary doctrine binds future parties to the new boundary. There may be no property records in effect but the agreed boundary doctrine of parties will bind future owners. This occurs frequently when the agreed boundary line has been in effect for many years with the previous owners.

What Are Some Common Boundary Line Disputes?

Property line disputes can often arise if there is some question as to the legal boundaries of the property. These can involve a broad range of property disputes, including:

  • Agreed boundary disputes: In some cases, the two property owners expressly agreeing to a designated line can resolve a property line dispute. However, this can raise problems if one of the neighbors moves.
  • Boundary line acquiescence: A property line can be established if the parties’ conduct over time indicates that they agree to the boundary. Again, this can cause issues if a court rules otherwise in the future; one party may lose a significant potion of their land.
  • Zoning issues: Property line disputes can often involve zoning issues. For instance, the property line can indicate where commercial activities may or may not be conducted, or it can involve access to public areas.
  • Title disputes: Property line disputes can often lead to disputes over title to the entire land, or to a small portion of land in question, such as an alley way or the space in between homes. These types of disputes can also involve other property issues, including adverse possession or easements.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Boundary Line Agreement?

The law regarding agreed boundary doctrines can be difficult. A real estate attorney can help property owners to put their agreements in writing to make sure no inconsistencies or disagreements occur. A lawyer can also check the relevant state laws in your area to determine what steps are necessary to finalize an agreed boundary line.