It can be somewhat startling to have lived in a home or owned a tract of land for a number of years and never questioned where the boundaries of the property lay. All bound up in legal paperwork that property owners take home with them after closing are the deed which includes the property description, a plat map and often a recent survey.
Questions about property boundaries may never come up unless a new neighbor moves in and then claims that his neighbor’s driveway cuts into part of his yard, or that the overhanging branches of a tree are invading his property. Or, when he decides to put up a new fence or structure, both neighbors discover that the current fence and the property line do not match up.
What are the most common boundary issues?
When deeds are properly recorded, they should include not only a property description, but also a record of easements and a plat map. Although some states require the mortgaging lender to order a survey before closing, in Tennessee the buyer may order one, but the seller does not have to pay for it.
The two most common boundary issues are trespassing and encroachment. Examples of trespassing include intentionally hunting or fishing, picking or harvesting crops or grazing livestock on private property. As Tennessee is a “fence in” state, property owners are required to maintain a fence to keep their livestock contained.
Encroachment happens when a structure such as a driveway, a fence or a dog run encroaches on another’s boundary, or even when water from a pool runs off into another’s property.
What kind of disputes end up in court?
In property law, easements are rights that allow the intrusion of structures that extend onto another’s property, or access onto another’s property such as a passthrough or right of way. Appurtenant easements transfer with the land when ownership changes, and were created out of the agreement or dispute of prior owners.
Disputes often escalate quickly when people feel their rights are being violated. Before filing a complaint, the landowner should check for any recorded easements and have a recent survey on hand that clearly shows his property boundaries.
If there are no existing easements, it is important to find out the laws in Tennessee regarding trespassing, fence laws, or adverse possession. It also helps to get advice on how to legally protect your property rights, amicably or not, to resolve a dispute with your neighbor.