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Property Lines (Long Rant!)

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Posted by: bluenoise

My yard is surrounded by trees and bushes which provide me with enough privacy to feel like I live in the only house in the neighborhood. Though I have a back fence, it is only four feet high and has an open design that I can see through.

Last week, my neighbor behind me and up the hill decided a row of Oleanders was, "getting too leggy," and he had his gardener chop them down to 12" high. The problem is that I believe I own those bushes and they provided a very effective screen between my pool and his front yard (His front yard is behind my back yard because he lives on a street behind my house). Putting aside the common courtesy of discussing the bushes with me regardless of property lines, the topic of property line came up anyway. According to my neighbor, his property line is 25-feet from the wall of his house. Using a tape measure, this puts the line about three feet behind my fence. According to the county's survey map, the property line is a continuation of the eastern side of the street he lives on before it makes a 90-degree turn West. This seems to agree with a marker in the trees between our houses. Additionally, the map shows my property to be 150-feet deep. When I measure that distance from my street, I am about 5-inches away from the same marker. This point is actually about 18-feet behind my fence into the grove of Redwoods that separate our houses. That makes it about 10-feet from the side of his house. It also makes those Oleanders mine.

I showed him all my "evidence" and he just said it was, "interesting," but it doesn't agree with his measurements. Meanwhile, he's building a big deck behind his house and my next-door neighbor, who's back line is the same as mine, thinks he's encroaching on his property. The two of us asked him if he had a survey done and he said he didn't need to because he, "knows the line is 25 feet from my house." Now my next-door neighbor and I are going to have a survey done together for a total cost on our two properties of nearly $2000. The back neighbor won't chip in, but says, "It'll be interesting to hear what your surveyor has to say.":mad:

Here's what I think is happening:

My house was built in 1961, his in the mid-80s. On the blueprint, the architect specified 25-feet from the property line. The guy laying out the foundation measured to what he thougt was the property line (an old fence perhaps) and they broke ground. It's also an interesting coincidence that the minimum distance from house to property line is 10 feet, which is what I believe his is. If the line is where he says, it's only six feet from one of the back walls of my house.

It ticks me off that I've got to spend a grand proving to this clown what is painfully obvious, lest he start building on my property or hacking down my trees. I'm now concerned that he won't agree with what my surveyor finds. What happens then?:confused:

Okay...I'm done venting for the night.

bluenoise



Posted by: stevel

Let me suggest that paying for a survey now is likely to cost you a lot less than the headaches you'll have afterwards if you let the neighbor go ahead with his plans. But you should perhaps put in a call first to the town's building inspector for advice.



Posted by: jennifer

I agree with Stevel. A survey is in order, as well as a call to the building inspector. In this state, someone can claim legal ownership of a piece/strip of land after 20 years if he can prove that he's used it for that period of time w/o dispute of ownership from anyone else.

Did you have a survey done when you bought the property? Or possibly a previous owner, or builder of the house, might have one. I'd start there first. It's also possible that your back yard neighbor may have an old survey as well.

There was a thread not long ago that questioned the need for an attorney in real estate closings. Your problem reinforced my opinion that when you are making one of the biggest investments of your life, it makes sense to have an attorney review the title to the property and certify that you own every inch of the property you think you are buying, and that there are no overlapping deeds or discrepancies.

Sorry for your problem with your neighbors, and I hope it is resolved quickly and in your favor.



Posted by: kdonnel

I met my new neighbor real quick when I moved into my current house. The first thing we did was put up a fence based on where the builder told us were the property lines.

The builders idea and the neighbors idea were different by about 20 feet on one corner. A big difference. There were supposed to be three homes on our cul-d-sac. One between us and our neighbor. The county decided to not allow a house to be built on the middle lot because they needed too big an easement for drainage to allow for a drive way. The house would have had a 500 foot or so drive way and been tucked behind and between our two houses. Instead of redrawing the whole plate and splitting the property between the two remaining lots they gave the entire lot to our neighbors lot.

After a very heated discussion we decided to build the fence as is and buy some of the land from him.

A survey later proved that the fence post in question needed only be moved 6 inches closer to our house and left 8 inches to be entirely on our property. I moved the fence post and created a tiny angled corner. We decided to not buy the property.

It would do us no good to purchase the land. While it is directly behind our home he can do nothing with it except pay property tax. The county will not allow anything to be built on it because of the need for the drainage easement.

The survey did prove however that about one square foot of the back corner of our driveway is on our other neighbors property.



Posted by: ungarod

I'd have to agree with everyone so far - have a survey done. $2000 seems a bit high for a survey of 2 plots though - I'd shop around a bit.

You can do some of the investigation on your own as well - that is if you are motivated, don't mind getting messy and have access to an old survey (and possibly a metal detector).

Look at your old survey and measure off one side based on the picture. When you get to the "corner" there should be a long piece of metal (like rebar) pounded into the ground. You can use a shovel and poke around looking for it - or that metal detector. Put a flag there so you don't lose track of it. Keep on doing this.

Now that won't be an official survey, it'll help you narrow down and get an idea of what the plot looks like and how far off you (or them) are.



Posted by: Msmcpa

Survey, definitely! 2 grand? Man, that's west coast living! Maybe standard residential type surveys are different, but I paid $350 when I purchased my house 4 years ago. Regardless, if that's the going rate, money very well spent. (if in fact his deck will extend beyond the property line, I'd wait until construction is almost complete before pointing it out :D



Posted by: DaveBogart

quote:
Originally posted by Msmcpa
(if in fact his deck will extend beyond the property line, I'd wait until construction is almost complete before pointing it out :D
As poster boy for the international society of pricks, I'd do the same.



Posted by: JohnJr

Have you examined all the "corners" of your property to make sure you can't find an old stake or rod left by previous surveyors? At some point in time the boundaries were probably marked, and if they used rods, they are probably still there. Stakes are iffy, depending on the age of the sub-division.

-John



Posted by: Msmcpa

quote:
As poster boy for the international society of pricks, I'd do the same


Cool! Will you sponser my membership?



Posted by: Saturn

If you have survey in hand and he still claims the property is his and does with it as he pleases, you certainly can call the police for trespassing and destruction of property.



Posted by: walters

I had the same exact problem with some hedges. The neighbor waits until I'm out of town for the weekend (sort of places doubt on the "I didn't know" argument) and hacks down my hedges. In fairness to him, they're on the outside of my fence (between his fence and my fence). But the survey clearly shows that my fence is several feet away from the property line and his fence is on the line. Plus, he had just recently moved in, so the orange flags were still on the corners of his property. :rolleyes:



Posted by: bluenoise

Thanks, everyone, for the responses so far. It looks like I need to clear up a few points:

1. The cost of the survey is a bit of a two-for-one deal. Out of the 10 surveyors we called, only three called back. The average cost of the three was $1600/parcel. One agreed to do two for about $1900.
2. The stake I found in the trees is actually a piece of 3/4" galvanized pipe with a yellow cap on top and a piece of pink plastic ribbon tied around. I can't find any special numbers on it, but it looks fairly official.
3. That deck is nearly complete, but that's an issue for my next-door neighbor. It appears to be on his land. As a prick myself, I'm hoping it overhands the line by about three feet. :D
4. There are a couple of brand-new wooden stakes showing where my neighbor believes the line to be. He pointed them out to me. He acted like they were official and that he had discovered them. I asked if a surveyor had just driven them because they hadn't seen any weather yet. He said, "Uh, no. I put them in so my contractor would know where the line is." :rolleyes:

bluenoise



Posted by: geko29

get the survey, then chop off the portion of his deck that extends into your yard with a reciprocating saw. When he says it's his and you can't do that, say "That's interesting." and walk away :)



Posted by: walters

Doesn't he need to get an official survey in order to put in the deck? Call code enforcement.



Posted by: Msmcpa

3/4" galvanized pipe is it! Sounds like you have it covered, just need the survey to prove it.



Posted by: Haps

I would get a survey(I actually would have ogt one when the hosue was purchased). I would also call the building inspector. Around here we have to get permits for decks. Not just so that they are built to code but we also have to make sure they fall on your own property. When getting a permit you sometimes don't have to prove this based on the deck(small deck juting out firectly behind the house). But in other cases the city wants a survey. If you don't get a permit or even build you deck wrong and the city inspects it they will make you pull it down.

I have seent he city make guys tear down a whole garage because they built it encroaching on their neighbours property line.

As far as surveyors are concerned. You will usually only find one pin in the ground. THis is a reference point for future surveyors. I'm building a house right now and I had to pay extra to get the surveyor to put pins in all 4 corners. I'm paying for a survey now and I know I want to build a fence next year. I don't want to pay again.

Once he came out and pinned all corners it was pretty interesting. The guy behind me had been encroaching on my lot with his driveway by about 15ft. He seems nice enough and has moved all hi stuff to his side of the property line.

The guy beside me has been encroaching quite a but as well. In fact a 3ft corner of his garage is sitting on my property. I haven't talked to him about it. I guess the surveyor mentioned it to him and mentioned that he could approach me to buy the piece. Right now I don't know what to do about it. He seems nice enough so I'm not going to be a dick and tell him to move his garage.



Posted by: Msmcpa

quote:
Doesn't he need to get an official survey in order to put in the deck? Call code enforcement.


I love it, the club membership is expanding!! I don't know about CA, but here you need a permit to paint your garage door. If deck building requires a permit, you could cause him enough trouble to run for president of the ISOP!!



Posted by: bluenoise

quote:
Originally posted by walters
Doesn't he need to get an official survey in order to put in the deck? Call code enforcement.


Again, the deck isn't behind my property; it's affecting my next door neighbor. Nonetheless, it's all related since my next door neighbor and I share the same line across the backs of our properties.

I mentioned that to him yesterday. I said, "When you're doing new construction so close to the property line, it seems to me you need to get a survey done." He replied, "Not when it's clear where the line is. It's 25 feet from the side of my house." I suggested that wasn't official in the eyes of the county (we're unincorporated), he replied (again), "Well, it will be interesting to hear what your surveyor has to say."

His refusal to acknowledge the metal pipe I found in the trees as a surveyor's mark, I'm concerned he won't heed the results of the new survey.

bluenoise



Posted by: Msmcpa

Haps, not sure how the law works north of the border, but I had the same issue. Had to get the neighbor to sign a form acknowledging that he is "using" my property so it won't become his. Sorta like the squatter rules. It's just his fence so it doesn't bother me now, but it could or it could bother a buyer.



Posted by: DaveBogart

The ISP called me and asked if I could get the name and phone number of this deck-building neighbor of yours for them. It seems they think he'd make a better poster boy. Thanks to this thread of yours it looks like I will lose a nice second income.



Posted by: gjustice

Go for the survey, it's the only way to prove where the boundary is.

If survey proves he cut down your hedges, it may be small claims court time.

Waiting for him to build the deck to and then raising the issue would probably get you nowhere, since you "let it happen" while knowing it might encroach.



Posted by: walters

quote:
Originally posted by bluenoise
Again, the deck isn't behind my property; it's affecting my next door neighbor.


Understood. It was just suggested as a way to get your good neighbor to get your bad neighbor to pay (the exorbitant fee, IMO) for the survey you want. :D



Posted by: bluenoise

My wife just reminded me that this remodel-happy neighbor has spent at least $200k over that past several months on a major remodel, so we're really getting to know the crew by name. My wife says, "If I hear Hey Norm! one more time, I'm going to open fire!" :D

bluenoise



Posted by: keirgrey

Physically? :D



Posted by: JohnJr

quote:
Originally posted by bluenoise
2. The stake I found in the trees is actually a piece of 3/4" galvanized pipe with a yellow cap on top and a piece of pink plastic ribbon tied around. I can't find any special numbers on it, but it looks fairly official.



That's almost for sure the boundary, bluenoise. I would send him a certified letter detailing what has happened to date, and how you have shown him that rod. Skip the survey. If he builds over the line, take him to small claims court, or something. That way you would be able to recoup the cost of having a new survey done.

-John



Posted by: askewed

quote:
Originally posted by geko29
get the survey, then chop off the portion of his deck that extends into your yard with a reciprocating saw. When he says it's his and you can't do that, say "That's interesting." and walk away :)


WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!!



Posted by: MaryT

Have a survey done. One of my neighbors MOVED the original pin to go around the outside of a tree on his property. Over the length of the fence he installed, it caused the fence to move 20 inches onto someone elses property. This caused another neighbor to improperly install HIS fence, since he lined up to the moved pin. Guess what? Now this neighbor has to pay to have his fence moved. Unfortunately, no once can prove that the original pin was moved. This neighbor admitted it to me, but it's just not worth it to get involved. Plus, it's going to cost the pin-mover a bundle to move his fence and landscaping.

It has turned into a huge mess. Get a survey done. It's worth it.

Mary



Posted by: geko29

quote:
Originally posted by askewed
WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!!


What do I win what do I win? :)



Posted by: GoodSpike

Washington has a law that if someone cuts down the trees on your property, they have to pay 3x the value of the trees (plus attorney fees, maybe). Anyway, you might want to check CA's laws.

Last year a federal judge cut down a bunch of trees in a city park, and is now paying the city something like $500,000.00. A regular joe did that somewhere else, and is going to jail.



Posted by: justapixel

Bluenoise, I'm in CA and had a similar problem. My next door neighbor decided to build a six foot fence in the front yard on our property line. He did not discuss it with us first, of course. It really cut off the view from my house and the front and I was afraid it'd be dangerous to have the kids outside playing with a fence there where no car could see.

I had it surveyed, and the prices you got were reasonable. I did a lot of searching and that's what I paid. Unfortunately, he was correct on the property line. I did get a bonus, in that he is six inches into the county setback. They are uninterested in pursuing that at the moment, but our HOA hates the guy and is hoping to use that to get his fence removed. Or, at least cause him enough pain so that he has to move it back.

Your neighbor sounds like mine, uninterested in a discussion and uncaring about neighborly relations. So, I'd first go to the county and get a copy of their lines and see if you can make sense of it. Then, if you can, spring for a survey.

The worst thing you can do is let it go, because CA law says that after a period of time you cede the property to the person who has encroached.

You might want to get a copy of Neighbor Law by Nolo Press for more info.

Good luck.

Neighbors that suck....well....suck.



Posted by: bluenoise

Thanks, Ann. I remember reading about your dilema and also remember the photos you posted. The bummer is that my back neighbor and his wife are a very friendly retired couple and we enjoy chatting with them "over the fence," as it were. He is being very cordial about the whole matter, but he is not conceding a thing. I was talking to my dad about it this morning and I told him how frustrated I was that the neighbor won't even chip in on the survey, especially after spending hundreds of thousands on a remodel. My dad said, "He probably realizes he's in the wrong. Who would want to chip in on a survey that proves he's wrong?" I think he may be right. He also said that, after the surveyor gives me his report, I should show it to my neighbor. If he asks for a copy, tell him it will cost him $600, or one-third the survey cost to be split between my next-door neighbor and me. I plan on doing that.

bluenoise



Posted by: IJustLikeTivo

quote:
Originally posted by jennifermcb
I agree with Stevel. A survey is in order, as well as a call to the building inspector. In this state, someone can claim legal ownership of a piece/strip of land after 20 years if he can prove that he's used it for that period of time w/o dispute of ownership from anyone else.


In the most basic terms, that might be true but in most states, there are other requirements.

e.g

1. Possession must be open and notorious. ie. the owner must be aware that it is taking place, an incorrect boundary state might overturn this kind of use.

2. In many states, the claiment must be paying any taxes and fee on the last they claim in order to maintain their rights to the land. If the taxes are not being paid by them but are paid by the owner, they can not claim the land.

In short, adverse possesion is complicated and requires a lawyer. In this case a survey will settle the dispute. I am amazed that none of the properties had surveys done or platt book copies provided at settlement. In my casem the house was part of a development and the settlement papers included a copy of the platt book with the property lines and house clearly marked.

I am also curious as to wether the neighbor pulled a permit prior to building the deck. In our jurisdiction, you have to show the property lines from a survey or platt to verify that you are compliant with zoning laws.

IJLT



Posted by: bluenoise

Thanks, IJLT. I should probably give the county inspector's office a call to see if permits were pulled and find their take on my issue. I'd be "interested to hear what he has to say." :D

bluenoise



Posted by: AJRitz

Bluenoise - you're already going to the expense of having the survey done, let me strongly recommend that if the survey suggests that your neighbor is encroaching on your property (and your "good" neighbor's as well) that you find a good real estate attorney as soon as possible. Small claims court may be a possibility, but (IMNSHO) you're much better off with someone who is conversant with all of the various permutations of the law in this area working for you (not to mention saving you from wasting any more of your precious time that necessary with the @$$hole neighbor behind you).

If he did, indeed, cut your trees there are several causes of action that may be available to you - trespass, trespass to chattels, conversion, statutory causes of action like the ones others have mentioned that provide for multiplied damages. Your recovery will be better if you have a professional working on your behalf.

AJRitz

Note: I am a lawyer, but not in your jurisdiction. I'm not your lawyer, but I recommend that you hire one who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction and who has experience with Real Estate litigation.



Posted by: mbklein

quote:
Originally posted by bluenoise
His refusal to acknowledge the metal pipe I found in the trees as a surveyor's mark, I'm concerned he won't heed the results of the new survey.


A survey is a survey, and if the county recognizes it and agrees with it, whether he heeds it or not isn't your concern. If he walked into your house uninvited, sat down at your table, and started eating your food, his belief in his right to do so wouldn't make a lick of difference. Once the property is properly designated as yours, any assertions on his part are immaterial.

Get your survey. If it proves he's in the wrong, he has two choices -- concede, or fight. If he fights, he'll need his own survey, which will most likely ALSO prove him wrong. In the case of conflicting surveys, the guv'mint will have to get involved, and whether they settle it your way or his, at least the matter will be settled unambiguously.

Michael



Posted by: walters

quote:
Originally posted by GoodSpike
Washington has a law that if someone cuts down the trees on your property, they have to pay 3x the value of the trees (plus attorney fees, maybe). Anyway, you might want to check CA's laws.


Unfortunately, in Florida all they have to do is give you a $100 gift certificate to Wal-Mart :mad: ;)



Posted by: bluenoise

Here's the latest, for any who might care...

The surveyor called back with the real quote, plus some additional info he was able to dig up. He says it will cost $2500 to survey the two lots (next door and my own) plus $500 to register the survey with the county. Ouch. He also said a survey hasn't been recorded since the mid-70s. This means a survey wasn't performed for his current remodel, though I don't think it's necessarily a requirement. It also wasn't surveyed when the house was built. He mentioned that he saw the neighbor's stakes and they would put the line about 6-8 feet from one of the walls of my house, in violation of the 10-foot setback rules. More clear evidence his stakes are in the wrong place.

My wife spoke with our realtor, who's also a family friend. He discussed the situation with his real-estate-attorney buddy and had some interesting advice. He said...

1. Work with my next-door neighbor (the one who was going to split the cost of the double survey) to measure out what we believe to be accurate and mark it clearly.
2. Meet with the neighbor behind us to explain how we concluded where the boundaries lie.
3. If he agrees that all is well, then get it noted in writing that everyone agrees to these boundaries.
4. If he disagrees, tell him to chip in one-third the cost of the survey to convince him otherwise.

The gist of this suggestion is that we (my 'good' neighbor and I) should not have to bear the responsibility of protecting our property from our neighbor. If he is taking actions that could be encroaching on our property, he needs to prove he is justified. I'm not completely convinced this will work. It was also recommended that I go ahead and build my new fence where my good neighbor and I agree is the line 'in good-faith' and put the burden on the 'bad' neighbor to prove us wrong.

I will talk to my next-door neighbor about this approach and get his thoughts, but we both agree that it is crystal clear where the boundaries are as noted on the county assessor's map that we all have. The only person who thinks otherwise is the back neighbor, who is going off hearing that, "it is 25-feet from his side wall."

Hopefully, common sense will prevail, but I'm not holding my breath. I don't have a spare $1500 lying around just to prove the obvious to my selfish neighbor. :(

bluenoise



Posted by: mooseAndSquirrel

Not that another state's data is really any use, but just as some point of reference I just had my and my neighbor's survey done and it was $950.

But on the deck question, I would be surprised if your county didn't require a building permit (my permit cost for a remodeling job in VA was $440). If your gardening neighbor is going to do his deck then he'd have to pay for his survey.



Posted by: AstroDad

I like the idea of buiding a fence and leaving it up to him to prove you wrong. Let him do a little worrying.



Posted by: bobjohnson

quote:
Originally posted by AstroDad
I like the idea of buiding a fence and leaving it up to him to prove you wrong. Let him do a little worrying.

:up: :up:
Fight fire with fire. Get that fence up there in a day, and give him a taste of his own medicine.

/me is all cliche'd out.



Posted by: kiljoy

Oh no! I'M the bad neighbor! Well, not bluenoise's bad neighbor, but I'm in a similar pickle. I'm in an older subdivision (1930s) and the back of my lot faces the back of two other lots. There used to be a 20' alleyway between them, but it's long since overgrown. I went out there to clear away the brush (when the electric and phone people cleared the way for utility poles 10-20 years ago, the current owner of my home told them to leave the crap there to stop kids from running through the yard. :rolleyes: ) In clearing all the crap away, killing about five large trees in the process, I found the corner marker... about 15' farther in than I thought! The city said we'd eventually sign off on 10' into what used to be the alley, but I've already cleared about 15'. After reading this thread, I'm going to talk to the neighbors behind me. I think I may be the bad guy in this situation...

Tony



Posted by: bobjohnson

If you're willing to have a dialogue with your neighbor, and admit wrong doing, you're not the bad guy... At least not in that particular situation. ;)



Posted by: Titleist

quote:
Originally posted by bluenoise
Here's the latest, for any who might care...

The surveyor called back with the real quote, plus some additional info he was able to dig up. He says it will cost $2500 to survey the two lots (next door and my own) plus $500 to register the survey with the county. Ouch. bluenoise



Wow! I just looked back to the survey I had done when I bought the 2 lots we built on (roughly 2 acres). Our survey, which they put in 6 stakes to mark all the corners of the 2 lots, cost only $200.

I would think that if you find you are in the right, the "bad neighbor" would have to pay "costs" in small claims court. JMHO.




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