survey or no survey? 

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doineedasurvey
Posts: 3

Joined: 4/12/2009
Topic  survey or no survey?       Flag »  Reply »
hi, i hope this is the right place to ask, and if possible someone can help or give some good advice. basically i have a house that was built in 1976 with a fence that was installed on what should have been the propertly line. there was one previous owner who installed the fence and was here about 1 year or so, then we bought it in 1978. the fence originally only encloses the back yard area, but we want to extend a half height to the front. we have an issue with a newer neighbot who bought the adjacent house to the east (shared property line), who after a few years started to insist our fence is on part of their property and the line is not where we understood it to be.
can someone tell me, under this scenario should we get a new survey, or does the existence of the existing fence override that? the local recorder is telling me the later would hold up in court (if it came to that). I've gone online to google maps and google earth and have gotten a copy of the original dedication plat map which clearly states the # of feet for the front of the property from one side to the other side. From what I can tell, the fence is pretty much dead on and in line with what the map shows (including an updated map/survey we had done in the 1980's). Can someone tell me that if the plat map shows x # of feet from line to line, then that is what it is, or is there some special scenario in which case that would no longer hold true?
thanks in advance..
  Sunday, April 12, 2009 at 11:30:16 PM
Mark Mayer
Posts: 3

Joined: 4/14/2009
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »
The specific answer to your question depends on the laws of your state and the circumstances surrounding the building of the fence and the conversations you may have had with your various neighbors over the years about the fence, and the timing of those conversations. Mere existence of a fence may, or may not, be enough to establish a boundary.

If this was in my home state, Oregon, and the builders of the fence thought they were building the fence on the true boundary line, but by mistake built it somewhere else, there actions would not be adverse to claiming the true line in the future.

If you have ever had a conversation  with one of your neighbors in which it was said that you didn't know where the line was exactly (as opposed to your being certain that the fence was the boundary, in spite of what your deed might say) then the fence may not be the true boundary.

In any case, supposing your fence is not on the true boundary, even if you have a boundary by agreement or an adverse possession claim to land not included in your deed, you probably don't have a claim to an extension of that adverse line for a new fence.
 
There are many other possible scenarios. Your fence may or may not be your boundary - I can't say from here. If you and your neighbor can't agree on a location for your new fence you are going to need a survey. Best idea is to share the cost with your neighbor.  In my neck of the woods the cost can easily run into thousands of dollars, especially if there is an active dispute.  Not all surveyors are equal. Some are more highly qualified for this kind of work than others.   
  Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 8:15:16 PM
Thomas LaCorte
Posts: 62

Joined: 10/17/2008
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »
I would have a survey done. There may be some proration in the block that may effect the lot width. Find a local surveyor, it will give you a leg to stand on.
  Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 10:03:15 PM
Will
Posts: 14
Location: Allentown, PA USA

Joined: 10/21/2008
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »
If your neighbor is so sure that the fence encroaches on his property, he should be able to show you the pins at the ends of your common property line and a plan sealed by a registered surveyor to back them up. If not, you can (nicely!) thunb your nose at thim. - Will
  Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 11:27:02 AM
doineedasurvey
Posts: 3

Joined: 4/12/2009
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »

thanks for all the answers.. I agree, it seems best to get a survey, but the cost is the only issue I guess primarily because the cost of redoing our fence and extension will already be quite pricey.

regarding the comments and suggestions:

we've never had a conversation with these newest neighbors who bought the adjacent lot where we claimed we didn't know where the line was, and in fact i believe they originally asked one day, and my dad had told them where the line was, we've never wavered from that and have been cutting the grass on that side since we moved in, in 1978 (about 20 years before these new guys) consistent with that line and the existing fence, and actually 2 other families lived in the same house before the new guys and we never had this issue come up. i don't think these new guys got a survey themselves at all, they just came in and started insisting the line wasn't where we had always ended cutting the grass, and etc (in line with the existing fence).

im confused though. according to the recorder (and the mayer whom I've talked with now as well), the fence can be established to be there for long enough to be considered grandfathered in. they are telling me that even if it was a little off, it would not matter and that established the line after so long (unless it was greatly off which it doesn't look like according to google earth, in fact looks spot on), and that a court would uphold that. i don't really want to go to court over this though, that sounds more expensive than the new survey option

but a few more questions to clarify if I could--
why would we need a new survey at all? because we bought the house very soon after the original lot was laid out and recorded the first time. i mean, if one can't go by the original plat map which was used and recorded at the time of building to define the property for building and landscaping, then how is getting a new survey going to help at all? isn't a new survey just going to verify points and take measurements using the original measurements as a guide? if not, the original measurements are meaningless and isn't one just pulling numbers out of thin air with no basis or guide?  and we are subject to losing feet after we bought a property that was originally laid out, built on, landscaped, etc., using the original recordings and map. we also have big landscape rocks in the front of the property that taper off and end where the line is supposed to be, and it's in accordance with the line of sight of the fence. it doesn't make sense to me that someone could lose feet, otherwise anyone could buy a house and always have to worry about this issue? and we had a survey done int eh early 1980's which is in agreement with layout and feet showin in the original dedication map. i mean, it was put in by the original owner right after the house was originally built, and if there was ever a time to know what the correct lines are supposed to be, surely that would have been the time ?

will--i think I like your suggestion the best.. thanks! :) (because I don't think they got one at all when they moved in, in fact they asked us originally lol).

 

 

  Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 10:21:24 PM
Mark Mayer
Posts: 3

Joined: 4/14/2009
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »
Perhaps I misunderstood. If you know where the platted line is, and its relationship to your fence, then I guess you don't need a survey. I understood that you did not know whether your fence is on the platted line or not.

Unless the Mayor and/or the Recorder is also a Circuit Court judge, a Lawyer, or a Land Surveyor their opinion and $2 will buy a cup of coffee, and that's all it's worth. They have zero authority in this matter and just enough knowledge of property law to be dangerous.

A long standing line of occupation, such as your fence, may mature into a property right and it may not. I cannot advise you regarding your specific situation from here. If you and your neighbor can't agree on a location for the fence, and it's extension, you are going to need a survey to resolve your dispute.      
  Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 11:22:55 PM
Will
Posts: 14
Location: Allentown, PA USA

Joined: 10/21/2008
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »
I'd like to weigh in one more time. I wrote about this kind of situation in PSM in an article entitled "Two Vignettes." A newcomer stirs up emotions by making claims without any proof. It's a clever way to shift the burden of proof onto the neighbor. The only way to resolve the issue is through a survey. But that doesn't mean a new survey has to be made. If the lots were surveyed - pinned, not just measured for construction purposes, without marking the corners - a visual inspection of the existing corner markers will establish whether there is an encroachment or not. You can talk all day long, and cite all the relevant maps and law, and you will just get yourself more riled. If you don't want to call a surveyor just yet, get a metal detector and a spade and look for your corner pins. If you can't find any, you can till just stand pat, and ask your neighbor to put his money where his mouth is. - Will    
  Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:53:46 AM
doineedasurvey
Posts: 3

Joined: 4/12/2009
Reply  Re: survey or no survey? Flag »  Reply »
thanks again for the comments. i guess i'll follow will's advice for now, try to perhaps locate additional pins.  we have already what we think is at least one pin though, it's more like a spike really, and it's jammed into the curb right about where (according to the existing map anyway), where the line was supposed to end, although i can't say for sure it's a pin from when we last had it surveyed.  the lot was definately pinned though, i remember my dad telling me that and we had a survey done in the early 80's which the same measurements were taken to the recorder. that's part of why i didn't think we needed one, because we bought the house a certain way and actually did our part and verified it with a survey of our own in the early 1980's. i guess one good thing is that the original plat map has the engineer's name and address on it, from 1976. perhaps I'll be able to contact them and maybe that might be a good place to start.
i suspect though after yet another (new) survey, that unless the last one was done incorrectly (yet somehow is in agreement with the original map), that we'll find out what we already know lol. for what it's worth also, i suspect why these new guys think the line is different, is because as one stands in front of the property (on the sidewalk), it's intuition to think that the property lines run parallel to the side of a house, which in this case it isn't so, which again the map and an aerial view cleary shows the line doesn't make a right angle to the front of the property. i think what happened perhaps, is that the adjacent lot was mapped out and when they built the house they built it too far to the west. i asked a neighbor on the other side (who knows about land) and they thought that was the case as well. but we'll find out i guess.
thanks again for the input
  Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 12:50:07 AM

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