Massachusetts Land Court Resolves Boundary Dispute Between Neighbors with Conflicting Survey Plans

In many situations, property owners must pursue judicial action to determine their rights in real estate matters.  In a March 23, 2017 case, the Massachusetts Land Court resolved a boundary dispute between the owners of adjacent properties.  The area in dispute was a portion of the plaintiffs’ driveway, which ran parallel along the shared boundary line.  Both parties relied on surveys they obtained to prove ownership of the disputed area.  Unable to resolve their dispute out of court, the parties sought a determination from the land court regarding the true common boundary line of the properties.

In June 2003, the plaintiff paved over his gravel driveway against an existing piece of rebar, located on what he believed was the common boundary line.  Once the asphalt was laid, the plaintiff did not take any measurements or verify whether the new driveway was in a different location from the gravel driveway, closer to the defendants’ property.  Believing that the paved driveway encroached upon their property, the defendants hired a surveyor to research and prepare a plan determining the location and dimensions of their property.

In 2005, the defendants approached the plaintiffs and asked if they could execute a document acknowledging the defendants’ determination of the property line.  The letter also gave permission to the plaintiffs to use the encroaching sections, such as the driveway and the mailbox areas, as long as they confirmed the location of the shared boundary based on their survey. The plaintiffs declined to sign the letter and, believing that the survey was incorrect, retained the services of another company to investigate and make a determination of the boundary line.

Due to differences in the method of apportionment, the plans conflicted as to the location of the shared property line between the parties’ properties.  The primary reason for the differences stemmed from the widening of the bordering street in 1931, which shortened the property lines along the lots.  Generally, such a deficiency would be apportioned among all of the lots in proportion to their areas, but only when the land is conveyed by reference to a plan or a demonstrated intent to divide the land according to some definite proportion, and there is no other guide to determine the locations of the respective lots.  Since the deeds conveying the parties’ lots consistently bound their properties by reference to an original plan, the Land Court found it appropriate to apply this rule of apportionment.

The plaintiffs’ survey apportioned the deficiency among all of the original eight lots in proportion to their areas, placing the entirety of the plaintiffs’ driveway within their property.  In contrast, the defendants’ survey did not apportion the deficiency proportionately and placed some of the plaintiffs’ driveway upon land purportedly belonging to the defendants.  The Land Court concluded that the plaintiffs’ survey contained the correct location of the common boundary line because the surveyor used more appropriate methodology, tying his findings into verified monuments shown on other plans.  Accordingly, the court ruled that the plaintiffs were the record owners of the disputed area.

Defending your property interests with the assistance of a real estate attorney may help in achieving a beneficial outcome.  The Massachusetts land use attorneys at Pulgini & Norton, LLP can assist individuals in a range of residential property issues, including boundary disputes, zoning and permit applications, home sales and purchases, and more.  To discuss your real estate goals with a qualified legal professional, schedule a consultation by contacting our office at (781) 843-2200 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Landowner Establishes Title to Fenced, Neighboring Property by Adverse Possession, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published March 7, 2016

Massachusetts Landowners Successfully Challenge Permit Issued for Housing Development Next to Their Property, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published September 19, 2016

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