What Should You Do If You Have a Property Dispute With Your Neighbor?

property line survey

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

– Robert Frost,  “Mending Wall

When neighboring countries dispute their border, they go to war. But when a property dispute arises between two Midwesterners, their course of action is far more civilized. If you and your neighbor have failed to reach an agreement as to whose land is where, don’t worsen the situation by antagonizing them. Simply follow these steps for the most amicable resolution you can reach!

1. Hire a Surveyor

The best way to navigate any dispute is to remain objective. When it comes to land, there is no better way to exercise objectivity than by hiring a professional land surveyor. They will create a map which clearly marks the exact position of a plat’s boundaries, in addition to any other features of importance to the landowner.

2. Check Your Local Laws

A survey is not a definitive verdict on who owns which land. Several local laws can also bear on a property dispute. For example, if your neighbor has spent a number of years using land that you own, then they may be able to claim adverse possession. Likewise, easements, covenants and defective deeds can all have a significant impact on who owns (or has a legal right to use) real property.

3. Attempt an Agreement

It is always best to avoid the courts as often as you are able. If your property dispute hasn’t made your neighbor overly hostile, determine whether they are open to signing a new deed that would dispel any confusion as to whose land is whose. You will need to engage an attorney who specializes in real estate in order to create that deed, and subsequently file that deed with your county’s relevant land registry or recorder’s office.

4. Attempt Mediation

Your neighbor may not be receptive to your invitation to hash out an agreement between just the two of you. If that is the case, then they may be open to mediation. That is where a neutral third party facilitates negotiation so as to avoid the need for official intervention. In the majority of cases, mediation is vastly preferable over proceeding to court.

5. Engage an Attorney

If your attempts to resolve the land dispute between you and your neighbor fail, then it is wise to hire a real estate attorney. Your attorney’s first course of action will be to send your neighbor a letter – not as a threat, per se, but to state your case, evince that your intent is serious, and propose what you and your neighbor can do to formally resolve the dispute. If your neighbor persists in violating your rights, your attorney can file a lawsuit. It is an expensive and lengthy solution to a border dispute, which is why you should strongly consider mediation or reaching a civil agreement first.

A land surveyor cannot settle a property dispute, although they will provide the document you need in order to assert your rights as a landowner. If you have the misfortune of taking part in a property dispute in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota, then we welcome you to contact Compass Consultants of Perham, MN today.