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Property Line Dispute Attorneys: An Overview of Boundary Line Dispute Law


With a population rapidly approaching 40 million, the odds are increasingly high that residential and commercial property owners in California will experience a property line related dispute. Property boundaries in grant deeds are of two basic types: metes and bounds descriptions and subdivision map descriptions. A metes and bounds description relies upon measurements of topographical and geographical features of irregularly shaped parcels, or “markers,” to determine the property boundaries. As such, a professional survey is typically needed to determine the precise location of the boundary between two properties. A subdivision map description, on the other hand, refers to the a lot number within a subdivision, whose parcels are typically uniform in dimension.

There are a few common property line dispute scenarios. The most common boundary line dispute is the placement of a fence in the wrong location. This can be fairly minor (a few inches) or more substantial (five feet or more). In densely located areas with small lot sizes even one foot can mean a substantial loss of use. When this happens, the legal analysis should begin with the question of how long the fence has been in the wrong location. Placement of the fence for more than five years can give rise to prescriptive rights of continued use, or equitable rights of use.

However, courts in this situation are typically reluctant to label this a “prescriptive easement.” This is because true “prescriptive easements” are non-exclusive. One can’t prevent a neighbor from using his or her own property by placing a fence in the wrong location. To illustrate the point, suppose a property owner builds a $150,000 custom Italian marble swimming pool that is situated three feet into the neighboring property. If the neighbor files a lawsuit to force the owner of the pool to tear it out and rebuild it, a court will usually want to know a few things. First, how substantial is the loss of three feet of use for the neighboring property owner? Was the encroachment innocent? If the encroachment does not prevent the neighbor from building a house, or making other economically viable use of property, and was innocent, the Court will most likely allow the owner of the pool to keep it in place for equitable reasons. However, that will not be the end to the case. The Court will probably require the owner of the pool to pay the other neighbor the market value of the encroaching portion of the pool. Remember, a true “prescriptive easement” does not prevent one owner from using his or her property. Keeping the pool in place will, however, prevent the neighboring owner from using the portion of his or her property that is being encroached upon by the pool. So, the owner of the pool will probably be able to keep it in place, but at a cost.

The land use lawyers at Kassouni Law have extensive experience resolving property line issues for clients.  If you have a boundary line issue, contact the Kassouni L:aw legal team to strategically posture your matter for positive results.