After Discovering Accurate Boundaries, Massachusetts Landowners Litigate Adverse Possession Claim

After a land survey revealed new information regarding the boundary line between two lots, two Massachusetts neighbors disagreed over how to handle ownership of that area.  In an April 3, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case, the plaintiff filed an action in the Massachusetts Land Court asserting that she had acquired adverse possession of the area in dispute.  A two-day trial was conducted, in which the parties presented evidence to support their positions.

The plaintiff in the case purchased her lot in 1985.  A dirt driveway was located on her lot at the time she moved in, and in 1987 she had it paved.  However, a section of the driveway, a sloped area at the bottom of the driveway, and a wooded area, all of which the plaintiff believed were on her property, in fact were encroaching on two other lots owed by another individual.  Eventually, that individual sold one of the lots to the defendants in 2007.  As soon as they moved in, the defendants began clearing and maintaining the wooded and sloped areas, apparently without knowledge of the exact boundary of their own lot and without knowledge of the existence of the second lot retained by the individual from whom they purchased their lot.

The relationship between the plaintiff and the defendants began to deteriorate after the plaintiff began the teardown and construction of her house in 2011.  Concerned about disruption from the construction, the defendants conducted some research and discovered the existence of the seller’s second lot.  The defendants reached out to the seller and acquired the second lot in 2011.  The defendants then hired a surveyor and marked the boundary of their property.  After a heated argument, the plaintiff continued construction on the property and additionally filed a claim for adverse possession of the area in dispute.

Establishing title by adverse possession in Massachusetts requires proof that the plaintiffs’ use was nonpermissive, actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and adverse, for a continuous and uninterrupted period of 20 years.  The land court found that the evidence presented at trial supported the plaintiff’s adverse possession claim with respect to the portion of the paved driveway crossing onto the defendants’ two lots.  In particular, the court explained that the construction and use of the driveway and the planting and use of the adjacent lawn area constituted control and dominion over the area and were acts normally associated with ownership.

With respect to the wooded and sloped areas in dispute, however, the court held that the plaintiff failed to establish her continuous and exclusive use over those areas.  The court noted that, other than planting some shrubs in the sloped area in 1991 and 1998 and engaging in minimal maintenance in both the wooded and sloped areas, the plaintiff did not use the disputed areas exclusively as part of her yard.  Accordingly, without clear evidence of 20 years of actual, exclusive, and continuous use, the plaintiff did not prevail on her adverse possession claim regarding the wooded and sloped areas.

If you are seeking legal information regarding your property, the Massachusetts land use attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can address your concerns.  We represent individuals in a wide range of residential real estate matters, including condo and home purchases, mortgage financing, building and construction permits, and more.  Consult with an experienced property lawyer at Pulgini & Norton by calling (781) 843-2200 or contacting us online to arrange a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Homeowners Acquire Ownership Rights to Portion of Neighbor’s Lot, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published November 27, 2017

Massachusetts Plaintiff Prevails on Appeal in Adverse Possession Claim Over Walled-In Patio Area, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 3, 2017

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