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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Default Property Line Dispute

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Michigan
    We purchased the property 5 years ago and did not have a survey done. During the spring of 2008 we started landscaping to facilitate putting in a new driveway. We trimmed the branches on 15 cedar trees that we believed were planted by one of the previous owners inside the Northern end of the West boundary line. The neighbor on the other side of the cedars corroborated the planting of the trees on our side of the property line shortly after we moved in and a number of times after that. Her fence that starts were the cedars stop was offset enough from the our tree line and appeared to support that premise.
    That afternoon a County Sheriff Deputy came out and ordered us to cease removing anymore "vegetation" from the trees because the neighbor filed a complaint stating they were her trees. After talking with the deputy and explaining our side, we were left with insructions to not remove any more vegetation until the property line as definitely identified.
    I paid for a survey and the trees were more than two feet inside my property line.The survey also clearly shows that the corner of her fence is almost a foot over the line on my property.
    Having little tolerance for more of her antics and false accusations, I sent a registered letter telling her to move the fence. A week later, I recieved a registered letter from her stating the fence was over 25 years old and she now owned the property under adverse possesson. I believe under Michigan law she's right. The two previous owners never questioned the location of the fence and it's been over 15 years.
    My dilema is how does the property description get changed? I'm planning on retiring in a few years and when I sell, I'll have to disclose that there is a property line in dispute. She stole the property from the previous owners, and I won't fight for the sliver her fence is on, but how do I get her to change the property descriptions to reflect her new ownership of the land her fence is on?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Default Re: Property Line Dispute

    This is a somewhat unusual question. It’s not often that someone writes in to say that they want to give away some of their land to a hostile neighbor. But are you sure that’s what you really want to do?

    You could hire an attorney to draft a deed for the sliver of land that your neighbor wants. This might also involve hiring the surveyor again because the deed will have to specify the precise location of the fence as the new boundary line.

    Before doing any of that, you would first need to make sure that doing such a transfer of title is legal in your town. You may run into zoning restrictions concerning lot size, setbacks, road frontage, and so on. Shaving off just a foot of your land could turn your legal lot into an illegal one. Again, you’ll need the advice of a local attorney for these questions and you might need to appear before local boards to obtain permission. (At least that’s how it would work where I live.)

    As for your neighbor’s adverse possession claim, just because she says she has adverse possession, that doesn’t make it so. She would have to prove her claim in court (by suing you). If the court were to find that she satisfied all the elements of adverse possession, then the court would order that the sliver of land be transferred to your neighbor. But proving adverse possession is never a slam dunk. And she would be looking at significant legal costs to bring that action. Do you think she would take this route?

    My suggestion would be for you to continue to assert ownership over the land in question. Send her another registered letter saying that her adverse possession claim has no merit and that the property line is just where the survey shows. Mark the true line (on her side of the fence) with string or something and put up a “No Trespassing” sign right at the property line. Take pictures in case you need them for the future. If she tries to take down your signs, you can involve your County Sherriff Deputy again.

    It’s possible that this will prompt your neighbor to sue you. Then you’ll have to decide if you want to fight the case or just not bother and lose by default. It’s also possible that she will agree to a “permissive use” arrangement whereby you grant her permission to use the sliver of land and she acknowledges that she doesn’t own it.

    One way or another, this is an issue that needs to be resolved before you try to sell your property. Not many people will want to buy a property that has a potential lawsuit attached to it.

    I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice. I'll be interested to see what others have to say.

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