Not many people expect to find themselves in a boundary dispute, but in Texas, they are actually quite common.
Imagine this fairly typical situation:
Your neighbors got a large dog, a mastiff or a pit bull, and was responsible enough to realize they need a substantial fence around their yard to keep the dog from creating problems in the neighborhood.
However, the cheap contractors they hired (to save a little money) built the fence a couple of feet onto your property — at least, you’re pretty sure it’s on your side of the boundary line.
You brought it to his attention, but he says he isn’t going to pay to have the fence moved.
Now you have a potential boundary dispute that may require litigation to solve.
Boundary disputes arise when two neighbors cannot agree on where the border between the properties exist.
In the example above, the neighbors hadn’t initially intended to steal or encroach upon your property — they made an error. The neighbor disagrees about the actual boundary, or they refuse to correct the situation.
This is probably the most common type of boundary dispute — there was some confusion, and something was planted or built in an area that was not clearly marked.
This gray area exists because boundary demarcations can shift over time as land changes hands — fences or hedges may have been placed incorrectly along the way, making it unclear as to where the actual, original demarcation line is located.
Further complicating matters, the boundary that had been assumed for many years to be a straight line between 2 points may not be described that way in the deed to the property — it may actually be shaped irregularly.
This can be especially true if your dispute is over a large property, especially one needing a fence to keep in livestock. You can read more about the laws applying to those situations here.
The first step in solving any boundary dispute is being absolutely certain you are in the right, that what you believe to be the border of the properties is correct.
The second step is collecting documentation that will support your claim to the section of property in dispute.
These two steps are accomplished by finding out exactly what the dimensions of your property are.
If your property line hasn’t been clearly marked in the last 10 years or so, you will likely need to have it surveyed by a certified professional land surveyor — be sure you aren’t about to make a grave error by forcing legal action based on incorrect information.
If the survey is current and you possess that documentation, yet your neighbor still refuses to take action to have the fence moved to their side of the correct, legal demarcation boundary, you may have to sue them.
Boundary disputes happen more frequently than expected, and they occur in all types of communities — urban, rural, or the suburbs in between.
They can involve properties of widely varying size.
In all cases, lawsuits cost real money — they are not cheap.
The actual costs vary. Each lawyer has their own fee arrangements. You can generally expect the expenses to include a new survey, a retainer to secure the representation of your chosen attorney, and filing fees required in the event a trespassing suit or lawsuit to recoup damages becomes necessary.
Some of these legal expenses may be recouped in the award if you receive a judgment in your favor, but you need to keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed.
Ultimately, you’re the only one who can make that decision.
You’ll have to consider what the disputed land is worth to you, both monetarily and sentimentally. Then, you need ask yourself if it’s worth the time and expense litigation will require.
When in doubt, talk to an attorney first!
Are sure you’re in the right and have tried to negotiate corrective action but can’t reach a resolution?
If communication has been unsuccessful, it may be time to seek professional legal advice.
The lawyers at HBWV Law would be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the resolution of boundary disputes — feel free to contact us here.
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