lot line confusion

mamacolAugust 3, 2007

Hi. We built our home 4 years ago, and in the process, the builder showed us a surveyors post and told us it was our property line. We built our pool and driveway (and lots of expensive retaining walls and plantings) along the edge of our property. Well, the two adjacent houses were also built using this same surveyors post to measure the backs of those lots. You can see where this is going!

The post actually marked the back corner of some farmland behind us (through some woods). Our actual corner is 83 feet from what we were told by the builder was our corner. 83 feet!

I have been paying taxes (exhorbitant) for 4 years on land that I haven't been able to use, I spent about $80,000 on pool etc that I never would have placed where I did had I known our lot's true dimension, and now our neighbor has dog fence, sprinkler system, and septic leach field on our property. And trees of course.

The builder is "getting information together" about how to deal with the two neighbors who have to move sprinkler systems etc, but how should I be compensated for my loss of use for all this time? And the permanent landscape mess that I will somehow have to make look good, like I wanted to stick the pool in the middle of my yard!

Any real estate attorneys out there? I should mention that my builder is a small businessman, in a long-term relationship with my neighbor across the street, respected and liked in the community, and I don't want to damage his business. I would probably be a bit of a pariah in the area if I sued this guy, but it might still be what I need to do to.

My neighbors will get their problems fixed relatively cheaply, and they won't wind up losing any land or anything. But I am really angry that my yard will always look like it was pieced together, and that I've been paying taxes all this time on something I wasn't able to use. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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Get a lawyer, period, end of story. Now is not the time to be the neighborhood nice guy. The builder is incompetent.
If you don't deal with this immediately, you will have a huge mess that will cost YOU greatly should you go to sell the property. No new buyer wants to get into a home with a messy situation further aggravated by a home seller who ignored a bad situation. Be sure your lawyer is a real estate attorney familiar with your area and state laws.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2007 at 12:47PM
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Wow! 83 feet. I am not a lawyer, but the way I see it, the only way you get compensated is for your to send bills to your neighbors and contractor. I cannot believe your planning and zoning dept did not catch this when you submitted your survey and site plan for the pool. Do they not require surveys and site plans when you submit plans for permitting? I know ours will not accept a survey greater than three years old. I would pull what ever the contractor submitted to get the permits and go from there. How did the contractor address setbacks and easements without a survey?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2007 at 9:01PM
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Would think the surveyor from when you brought the properties & possibly the title company would be liable around here.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2007 at 12:37PM
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I don't understand how this happens. So many things have to go wrong for this to happen.

1) A plot plan should have been created by a surveyor and filed with the town, and you should have received copies.

2) You should have hired a surveyor when you bought the lot to verify the lot lines. A builder is not a surveyor and cannot be relied on for this. Just because a marker is there does not mean it is the marker that people think it is. Mortgage companies usually require a plot plan, often with the foundation located on it.

3) Whenever something major is built, like a POOL, a survyeor should stake it out and verify lot lines. I'm surprised the town didn't require this.

4) Your neighbors should have used surveyors when they built their houses, leach fields, etc.

Where the heck do you live? In an unincorporated township or something?

You paid taxes on land you owned, but somehow didn't know about? Was the plot plan wrong? Were all these people relying on the builder's word on where the lot lines are?

The neighbors are required to remove whatever they put on your land.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 12:23AM
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I live in an unincorporated township and as a result have to go through the county, I guarantee that they triple check every little nitpicky thing. County is worse than dealing with a town I hear, as it is a much larger pool of bureaucracy.

But maybe that's just here.

Please get a lawyer, and let us know what happens!!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 1:50PM
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I know it seems impossible for this sort of thing to happen, but it does. When the 100 acres next door to us was subdivided, the engineer/surveying company was a bunch of idiots.

My first clue was when my dog started barking at guys walking across my lower pasture one morning. They had mashed down my fence to climb over since the marker they had to start from was at my far back corner. I told them they were welcome to come in through the front gate, but any damage to fences would be billed to their boss. They continued to climb over fences, chopped down trees for a clear sight line and left gates open to my horse pastures.

Years later I found out from one of the people who bought into that subdivision that the markers on the lots were completely inaccurate when compared to the subdivision plat. Some people "lost" as much as an acre off their 3-4 acre lots!

To this day, there is a 40 foot wide, 500 foot long swath that no one is sure who owns since the lot descriptions on either side do not include it. Other neighboring lots have descriptions that overlap by nearly that much.

The smart landowners there have gotten their own surveys to have clarified who owns what and have had permanent markers placed at the corners. Not one of them have used the same engineering/surveying company that did the original plat and surveys. Some have had attorneys help them sort out the discrepancies and get their actual lot descriptions registered with the county.

Like I said, they were the smart landowners! ;-)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 1:40AM
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Wow, Woodswell's situation is even more crazy than mine! I do live in an unincorporated township that doesn't require surveys each time properties change hands. It is so frustrating that no one caught this.

I remember specifically asking my builder if we should get a survey to make sure the pool was laid out entirely on our land, but he said "there are the markers! What could a survey tell you differently?", and I just went along with him.

I need legal advice, which isn't in the budget now, by any means. My neighbor mowed our land last night, too. Why? Just to piss me off? He's the one who was so worried about our bush being on his land, and us mowing a strip he thought was his, that he started this whole thing. Well, I'm glad he got the survey, otherwise we wouldn't have known about our large yard. The kids are planning bonfire pits and sheds and a pond! I hope our neighbor doesn't mind!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 2:09PM
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i don't kknow about your area, but in mine you MUST take a plat of the land to the health dept and THEY tell you where your septic tank and field must go. how in the heck did THAT slip by?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 3:53PM
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Fortunately, I am not directly involved in any of the problems with the plat or lots in the subdivision next door. I just get the deal with the people who bought over there. I am lucky in that most of them are good neighbors.

You might check with your state or local Bar Association. In Florida, they will give you a referral to an attorney who specializes in the area of law that you need advice about. Years ago I needed some legal advice and used their referral service - for $10, I got one hour of time with an attorney who listened to my problem, gave me some suggestions and assisted with how to write a letter to solve the problem.

Since the letter could legitimately start out, "Upon advice of counsel," it scared the other person into doing what I needed, LOL! I don't know what the fee would be these days, but it is worth a shot!

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 1:30AM
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"I do live in an unincorporated township that doesn't require surveys each time properties change hands."

It is a lender that usually want at least an improvement location survey.
The only time I have been hit with a government required survey was for subdivision.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 3:43PM
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I can't remember the exact term for it, but when we bought our house we got the insurance on the boundaries, which some of you having difficulties now ought to look into for future reference once you get it all sorted out.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 2:01AM
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kim, what you are referring to is title insurance. it is an inexpensive way of protecting you against unforseen problems with boundary disputes and other title problems.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 7:52AM
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If you didn't think this was your land all along, and the neighbor did, why don't you sell it to them? That way you can avoid your patchwork fix-ups and they can avoid moving their stuff?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 9:34AM
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Well, to be honest, I would like to use some of that land, but I would be happy to sell some of it to them. But my driveway has always been too narrow, and we would like to build a shed or storage building, so it will be nice to have our yard back.
I do have title insurance, but how do I get restitution from them? Any lawyers out there?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 10:37AM
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if your plat you were given at closing shows the correct dimensions, title insurance ain't for crap from what i understand. my understanding is that title insurance protects you if the title is wrong, NOT if the boundaries are not where YOU believe they are.

to me this sounds like another case of taking a buidler at his word and not having a proper verification by a 3rd party(a surveyor).

i guarantee you that the paperwork spells it out correctly, if not then you would not be paying taxes on it, nor would you own it. it would be no man's land. this would throw out any insurance claim.

hire an attorney and sue the builder. you probably won't get very far, because he has paperwork showing where your lot is, and it will match yoru paperwork. YOU on the other hand have just a verbal conversation 4+ years ago.

now, if both your paperwork AND your neighbor's paperwork show you owning the same piece of land, you can both sue him.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 5:16PM
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Try to avoid the lawsuit. The amount of money, stress and bad will it creates will damage you and your family far more than you can possibly realize.

You really are not losing anything here. You have just gained property that you did not know you owned. The neighbors on the other side of the fence are now losing property they thought they owned. Talk to the county assessors office and find out how much in taxes you have paid over the last 4 years for this 83 ft piece of land. Then talk to the builder and their surveyor about reimbursing you for that amount. Explain to them that this is the least expensive way for them to solve the problem and avoid legal action and that this is the fair thing for them to do. If they have a problem with it, follow up with a written request from a real estate attorney specifying this option as a settlement request before legal action is taken. They should be smart enough to cooperate and avoid spending huge amounts of money on a lawsuit. If they don't cooperate, I still say avoid the lawsuit and move on with your life. It may sound like "losing face" to then not go ahead with a lawsuit, but your objective here is to see if they will do the right thing and compensate you. Moving forward with a lawsuit will not be worth it for your particular situation.

I know that the placement of your pool in your yard is now not going to seem ideal to you, and that sucks, but file it under lessons learned so that in the future you always get a land survey done no matter what a builder says. Just think, the problem could have been the other way around and your neighbors could now possibly own your pool. That would be far worse.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 6:51PM
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Good advice, Mel. If you consult a lawyer, he will see a great business opportunity to adivise you to sue.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 9:58PM
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