Boundary line disputes are, arguably, one of the most contentious areas of law. Understanding the right approach to dealing with boundary line disputes can make a real difference in effectively resolving these problems.
Determine Your Property Boundaries
The first step in resolving boundary line disputes is to determine your property boundaries. Many times, the boundary line for property is not where the owner believes it is. Even though fences and other physical structures may, informally, be considered the perimeters of property, the actual property lines may be in a different location. Determining property boundaries is generally done by a survey or plot plan, which is prepared by a licensed surveyor. A surveyor will review the land records for the subject property (found in the appropriate registry of deeds) and state the exact location of the property’s boundaries.
A survey or plot plan, however, is not always the final authority for determining a land boundaries. Massachusetts, like most other states, allows for adverse possession of real property. Adverse possession is a legal claim where the continuous use of property by a non-owner allows that user to legally acquire the property. As such, even if the survey or plot plan states that disputed property belongs to a particular person, an adverse possession claim may allow a non-owner to become the property’s record owner.
Attempt to Resolve the Matter Amicably
Property owners should always attempt to resolve boundary line disputes without going to court. Court cases, while sometimes necessary, can be long and expensive. Many times, boundary line disputes can be worked out amicably, which is to everyone’s benefit. Mediation, where the parties meet with a neutral party to discuss the dispute, can be a useful process for these matters.
Although it is beneficial to try and settle these matters out of court, it is still a good idea to speak with an attorney for help with these negotiations. A lawyer can help advise you of your rights and determine the best way to proceed.
Seek Court Action If A Resolution Cannot Be Found
For boundary line disputes that cannot be resolved amicably, court action may be necessary. Massachusetts law allows property owners to get a court declaration on the ownership of property, and a court order preventing a party from using a portion of property, if necessary.
Unlike many states, Massachusetts has a court that specializes in property cases: Land Court. Land Court is a popular court for these types of cases, with judges and staff that are familiar with these matters. In addition to Land Court, these cases can also be brought in Superior Court or federal court.
If you find yourself in need of a court case for a boundary line dispute, contact a lawyer for assistance. Preparing and filing a lawsuit for boundary line disputes can be tricky, and having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in getting the results you need.