Neighbors Litigate Ownership of Boundary Line Areas in Massachusetts Adverse Possession Case

In some situations, a person may establish title by adverse possession in a legal action filed with the Massachusetts Land Court.  The plaintiffs in a March 4, 2019 Massachusetts adverse possession case claimed title to an additional eight foot wide strip of land along the eastern boundary of their property.  They brought the claim against their neighbors, who were the record owners of the area in dispute.

The portion of land claimed by the plaintiffs was not a unified area.  Essentially, it could be divided into three parts.  One section had been enclosed by the plaintiffs’ back yard fence until 2012 and encroached approximately 5 feet over the record boundary line.  The second section was not fenced or enclosed.  The plaintiffs claimed possession of this section because they regularly raked and mowed the area and the defendants had no physical presence in the area.  The third part consisted of 3 feet beyond the fence that had been erected and removed by the plaintiffs.

To acquire title by adverse possession in Massachusetts, the plaintiffs must show nonpermissive use of the property which is actual, open, notorious, exclusive and adverse for a continuous period of twenty years.  The acts that establish adverse possession must be changes to the land that demonstrate the control and dominion ordinarily associated with ownership, and so open and notorious that they may be presumed to have been known by the record owner.

The Land Court found that plaintiffs and their predecessors had performed sufficient acts for adverse possession of the first area. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiffs had installed the fence more than twenty years prior to its removal, that they did so without permission, and that the fence acted as a clear claim to the area it enclosed.  The court went on to find that the plaintiffs exclusively maintained the second, unfenced area, and that the mowing and raking gave a line of demarcation that was sufficient for adverse possession of that area as well.

As to the third section, which consisted of the three feet beyond the fenced section, the court ruled that the plaintiffs had not met their burden.  In particular, the court explained that the plaintiffs sporadic raking of leaves and planting of three trees were not adverse acts, because the defendants continued to occupy the area. In addition, the trees were reasonably viewed as a mutually convenient privacy feature, planted with the implied permission of the defendants.  The Land Court therefore granted the plaintiffs claim with respect to two of the sections, and denied the claim for the third section.

At Pulgini & Norton, our Massachusetts real estate lawyers have the experience and knowledge to help you with any residential property issue.  We handle a wide range of real estate matters, from mortgage financing and home closings to building permits and land use regulations.  Request a free consultation with a Pulgini & Norton property attorney by calling (781) 843-2200 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Homeowners Seek Declaration That Road Bordering Their Property Is Public Way, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published March 27, 2018

Massachusetts Homeowner Fights Adverse Possession Claim Filed by Commercial Property Owners, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published November 26, 2018

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