Boundary Line Disputes

Many New England property owners, especially those who own commercial or residential property in and around the Greater Boston Area, will find that their property lines and boundaries were drawn many years ago – sometimes hundreds of years ago. For that reason, their boundary lines may not be clearly marked on the land itself or on their very old subdivision map, survey or plot plan. When property lines and boundaries are not clear, confusion can create a point of dispute between neighbors.

Some common boundary disputes involve:

  • A neighbor tries to build a fence, repair an existing fence, or remove an existing fence that is on your property.
  • A neighbor seeks to plant trees or bushes in an area that he/she believes is their property when in fact, that area of land is your property.
  • Trees or bushes growing on your neighbor’s property become overgrown and begin to encroach upon your land, causing damage to your house or other buildings and structures (example: a fence, railing, walkway).
  • A neighbor seeks to construct an addition to their house but the planned addition is too large for their lot, the end result would be the addition is located too close to your boundary line in violation of local zoning regulations – as a neighbor (an “abutter”) you have the ability to file a challenge with the zoning board to stop this type of infringement upon your property.
  • A neighbor starts using sections of your property under the mistaken belief that it is his/her property.
  • A neighbor blocks your access to your land due to a dispute over that section of land (example: your neighbor parks his/her car in such a way as to block your driveway).

As outlined above, confusion as to the location of ones property line can cause tension between neighbors and differences of opinion that can lead to legal disputes and possibility litigation. In Boston and throughout Massachusetts, property line and boundary disputes are commonplace but you can attempt to avoid these types of disputes in a number of ways:

  1. Speak with your neighbor openly about the dispute immediately. It is easier to address a boundary dispute if the encroachment is addressed soon after the encroachment occurs for the first time. This approach is a good first step because the less your neighbors gets used to (or otherwise accustom) to encroaching upon your land, the easier it will be to stop that conduct. During these discussions you can show your neighbor your tax map, assessor’s map, deed description, subdivision map, or other descriptive documents to help explain where the boundary lines are located.
  2. If discussion with your neighbor are not effective or not an option, contact the experienced real estate lawyers at Calabrese Law Associates soon after the encroachment upon your property occurs. The firm’s lawyers will contact your neighbor and seek to resolve the matter through negotiations. Our firm can even prepare a “boundary line agreement” that can be recorded at the registry – this is a useful tool when boundary line disputes arise. If negotiations fail, our real estate lawyers can initiate a legal proceeding, asking a Massachusetts court to stop your neighbor from encroaching upon your land and to pay for any damages caused to your property.

What Should You Do If There Is a Boundary Line Dispute?

If you and a neighbor disagree over the location of your property boundary lines, it’s important to take action quickly. Being lax about boundary disputes can mean you lose the right to certain sections of your land – that is, loss of land by adverse possession. In addition, the longer the conflict continues, the more animosity may build between you and a neighbor, which complicates the situation further.

It is best to resolve these issues as quickly and as amicably as possible. One way to do this is simply to look at official documents — such as deeds — to determine exactly where one property ends and another begins. If this does not resolve the disagreement, it can be useful to contact an attorney or a mediator. They can attempt to resolve the issue by presenting evidence or by trying to get both parties to reach an acceptable compromise.

In many cases, property owners try to prevent legal disputes to avoid aggravating neighbors. However, in some cases it may be important to consult a boundary line dispute attorney in Boston to protect your property and its boundary lines. The boundary line dispute attorneys at Calabrese Law Associates can review the documents in the case and can help you determine where boundary lines exist based on the legal description of your property. Our firm’s attorneys can help you resolve a property line dispute in the calmest and most advantageous way possible.

Taking Legal Action

If there’s no other option, your property line dispute attorney may advise you to pursue legal action. There are three common avenues available in property and boundary line dispute cases:

  1. You can pursue a claim for trespass. Trespass cases are heard before a Massachusetts state court judge, and the Plaintiff (you) must allege and prove the following to win such a case:
    1. You have a right to “possess” the property in question, and
      1. You need not be the property owner. A tenant can maintain an action for trespass against those who illegally enter upon their rented property.
    2. The wrongdoer must enter upon the property in question intentionally,
    3. The wrongdoer’s entry upon the property in question must be done without right or license.
  2. You can pursue a declaratory judgment. In this situation, you are asking a Massachusetts state court judge to determine who owns the land in question. No monetary damages are awarded for this type of claim.
  3. You can pursue an injunction. An action for an injunction is one where the plaintiff (you) asks the court for an order commanding the wrongdoer to perform an affirmative act or to stop performing some act. For example, a party can seek an injunction asking a Massachusetts Court to order a neighbor to stop encroaching upon your property.
    1. In order to be granted an injunction you must demonstrate the following to the Court:
      1. A likelihood of success on the merits of your claims;
      2. Immediate and irreparable injury if the injunction is not allowed;
      3. The balance of harm tip in favor of granting the injunction;
      4. *Public policy favors granting the injunction.
      5. *(this is a requirement Massachusetts Federal Court)

    If you are involved in property line and boundary dispute please contact the experienced real estate attorneys at Calabrese Law Associates today for a free consultation to discuss your case and your available options.

    Our offices are conveniently located in downtown Boston across the street from the Old State House and in Burlington, Massachusetts off I95 near the Burlington Mall.

    Helpful and Informative
    5 / 5
    | Dec 12, 2016
    I had an issue with a neighbor over a parking space problem and a property boundary dispute. I was desperate to resolve the problem because there was a lot of tension between the neighbor in question and myself as a result of this disagreement. When I contacted Peter he was most helpful and informative in helping me resolve the dilemma. I would not hesitate to recommend Peter's services to anyone who needed legal help with a property issue. Thanks again Peter for all your help!
    Calabrese Law Associates