Resolution of boundary disputes between adjoining California landowners

Securing the location of the true boundary between two legal parcels of land can bring all kinds of legal and practical headaches. Whether the land is used for personal or business purposes, its owners need to be able to rely on stable perimeters within which to develop and use their lots.

Unfortunately though, it is common and easy for boundary disputes to arise in many kinds of circumstances, often related to structures or land features like fences, walls, landscaping, easements, driveways, building or utility setback strips and more. The ways these disputes come to light are many, but can include:

  • An existing fence or wall the parties assumed was placed on the boundary is in conflict with the findings of a professional survey.
  • A driveway, building, garden, sewer or other item abuts onto the adjoining lot.
  • A modern survey conflicts with monuments, pins or stakes the owners have relied on as marking the boundary.
  • An owner who relied on the oral representations of a seller or relative about a boundary discovers the information to be in conflict with a legal description, survey or understanding of a neighbor.
  • A legal description or survey uses a natural fixture (tree, stump, river, shoreline, boulder or similar object) as a boundary marker and that fixture has shifted or disappeared over time.
  • And more

California property and real estate laws that can apply in such situations are extremely complex and resolution of these kinds of conflicts is not always straightforward. It is smart for a landowner who finds him or herself in a boundary dispute to consult with an experienced real estate attorney for advice about potential resolution.

Negotiation with a neighbor to try to come to an agreement to set the boundary in most situations should be attempted before choosing to go to court. Informal resolution can be much cheaper than litigation, and because these disputes can be so fact specific and the law so complicated, it is not always easy to predict how a judge or jury may rule. At least with negotiation, while it will likely involve compromise, at least there will be input from both parties, saving time, money and stress.

Legal counsel can assist in the negotiation process and draft or review any contractual or legal documents needed to finalize an agreement, as well as publicly file any necessary legal documents.

However, if an agreement is not an option, a lawyer can advise the owner about what legal claims could be brought, such as an action to quiet title or for trespass, nuisance, adverse possession, prescriptive or equitable easement and more, as well as an assessment of possible outcomes.

Based in Orange, attorney Mark Nialis of Nialis Law Group, A Professional Law Corporation, represents landowners and other individual and commercial clients throughout Orange County.