Boundary disputes between neighbors can happen to anyone. While it may seem like the boundaries are set in stone, often, boundaries can change over time. There could be confusion over exactly where the boundaries for a piece of property are, and disputes can lead to stressful and expensive outcomes for either party involved. Any potential boundary disputes will need to be handled quickly and properly by the owner to prevent severe consequences for what may seem like innocent actions like trimming a tree.
When Boundaries May be Disputed
Most of the time, boundaries between homes are marked by fencing or other structures, and both neighbors will agree on where the boundary is located. However, at some point, there may be discussion over exactly where the boundary is, as a few inches to one side or the other can make a difference. If there are overgrown trees, for instance, and one neighbor wants to trim them, finding out which property the tree is on could be crucial. Boundary disputes can also happen when one neighbor wants to install a fence on or close to the boundary line, when someone is constructing a new building that may end up too close to the boundary, or when properties are being sold. If the boundary disputes aren’t figured out quickly, the problem could end up much bigger than just a disagreement between neighbors.
Can Property Lines Change Over Time?
Property lines can easily shift over time. When larger properties are sold, they may be split and sold as smaller properties. This is common when a large piece of land is sold and used to create a neighborhood, with every house having its own piece of the large property. Property lines can also intentionally shift if a neighbor purchases a small amount from another neighbor to prevent code compliance issues, such as if they are constructing a building and are required to have it a certain amount of space away from boundary lines or if a little more land is needed to make a structure like a driveway the required size.
Boundary lines can also change through usage. If one person is using some land past the boundary for many years, the end of that space can end up becoming the new boundary line. For instance, a fence is built and is actually over the boundary line by a foot. The fence has been left in place for many years. Eventually, the boundary may end up being along the fence line since that’s where both neighbors assumed it was for many years.
Issues From Potential Disputes
When it’s discovered that the neighbors do not agree on the exact property line, it’s important to solve the dispute as quickly as possible to prevent further problems. A few of the more common issues that can arise from boundary disputes include the following.
Fence Installation On or Past Boundary
Fences that are built on or past the boundary can lead to questions and concerns. When it’s time to sell the property, a fence over the boundary line could cause problems with the title. Potential buyers may not want to purchase the property with someone else’s fence on it, so it may be necessary to adjust boundary lines or have the fence removed and reinstalled on the other side of the boundary. Depending on how long the fence has been in place, it may require legal assistance to determine if this is even possible.
Trimming or Removing Trees
In South Carolina, if someone damages a tree, they could be liable for fines as well as potential jail time, as damaging the tree is a criminal offense. A property owner that trims a tree they think is on their property may run into this problem if the neighbor believes the tree is on their property instead. It’ll be necessary to determine which property the tree is on. If the owner trimming the tree is incorrect, they may be held liable for any damage done to the tree. If a tree is removed from someone else’s property, potential fines can be thousands of dollars, depending on the type, size, and age of the tree. Though trimming or removing a tree may seem minor, it can end up being a serious issue when boundary lines are involved.
Adverse Possession of Property
South Carolina does allow for adverse possession of property. This can be a whole plot or a part of one. If someone openly uses the land and treats it as their own for a period of 10 years or longer, they can claim the property as their own through adverse possession. Where this often comes into play is in boundary disputes. One person uses a part of a property they believe belongs to them for a significant amount of time before finding out it isn’t part of their property. Through adverse possession, though, they can claim it. Allowing adverse possession to occur could end up costing thousands in legal fees or cause complications with a mortgage as well as with selling the property in the future.
How to Settle Boundary Disputes
Fast action is needed for any potential boundary dispute. The first step is to determine where the property line is exactly, which can be done through a survey. The survey will show where the legally recorded property line is placed. Once the survey is done, if there is still a dispute, it is time to talk to an attorney about the problem. Property owners can prevent thousands in fines or other legal issues by getting help right away and learning about the various solutions open to them. If a dispute can’t be resolved, it may need to go to court.
Boundary disputes can arise at any time and can lead to far more serious legal concerns for property owners. When there is a boundary dispute, getting the right help immediately is crucial. Stelzner Law offers assistance to property owners who are worried about boundary disputes and can help with determining the right resolution for the specific situation. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn more.
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