There is a question on the State mandated Seller Disclosure Statement that says, “Are there any encroachments, boundary agreements, or boundary disputes?” That question is usually answered quickly and definitively by most sellers as a resounding “No”. The problem with that answer is that it may be premature. It might be better to have been asked if there are any boundary disputes,…yet.
The reason I say that is because there probably has not been a survey completed on the property and when a buyer requests a survey to be done, it often creates new problems with neighbors who disagree with that survey. I’ve been known to say that most property owners don’t really know exactly where their boundary lines are, and I’ve been proven right over and over again. When bright colored ribbons and new stakes suddenly appear in places that seem different than the neighbor’s perception of the boundary locations, they are usually quick to refute those new markings and the dispute begins. This should serve as a warning to buyers who request a survey. Be prepared for such controversy and the fallout that may ensue!
In a recent case, when the requested survey was completed on a listed property it was discovered that the neighbors house was totally inside the boundaries of the subject property. This of course caused an uproar because that sort of news is upsetting to any landowner. The situation was resolved quickly by creating a lot line adjustment and trading equal parts of land for equal parts. These types of cases don’t always end up so peacefully though! In another case with a similar encroachment, the offender was legally forced to remove the encroaching buildings at great cost to them and then they had to live near neighbors who hated them.
Surveys are not an arbitrary decision by someone who decides to put a couple of stakes in the ground. A survey is very carefully calculated by using the most modern equipment and complex mathematics to permanently mark exactly where any given piece of land is located, based on its legal description. This is not up to interpretation like some people think. Sure there is always a slight margin of error, but sophisticated modern tools have made it so surveyors are less likely to be inaccurate. Angry neighbors have been known to remove new survey pins, not realizing the legal jeopardy they place themselves in by so doing, since it is a crime to remove survey pins.