Seek legal advice in a California boundary dispute

Sometimes parties to a boundary dispute will try to negotiate a settlement of the matter.

Disagreements between adjoining residential or commercial landowners about where the true boundary line falls between their properties can lead to protracted disputes. It is a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced real estate lawyer to understand what legal options exist for resolution of the issue.

Counsel will investigate the history of the dispute, the use of the associated property and the legal documents associated with the ownership of each parcel to help determine how the issue is likely to be resolved if it ended up in court. That knowledge can be helpful in any negotiation between the parties to resolve the matter short of a lawsuit.

The respective party's attorneys can assist in conducting a negotiation to try to come to agreement about where the boundary will be between them. If necessary, they can hire a mediator to help them resolve the problem. Mediators are neutral third parties who are specially trained in conflict resolution and can assist the parties through stalled negotiation toward agreement.

If the parties can agree on the boundary short of going to court, a lawyer can help draft, execute and file any necessary legal documents to formalize and legitimize the accepted boundary.

Filing or defending a lawsuit over a boundary dispute sometimes becomes necessary if the neighbors cannot reach a resolution. However, such litigation can be expensive for a couple of reasons. For the court to be able to come to a decision, it is often necessary to gather, create and submit voluminous and extremely detailed evidence.

For example, a party's lawyer must conduct historical research of land titles, legal descriptions in deeds and past surveys and plats. If necessary, the owner may have to hire a qualified surveyor to conduct a new survey, which can be an expensive and extensive undertaking. (That surveyor also may end up as an expert witness in court, another cost.)

It can be challenging to survey land when earlier boundary records are based on land features that may have shifted or been destroyed or removed over time such as trees, rocks or bodies of water.

In some land disputes, the court ends up analyzing records from the 1800s, sometimes all the way back to the original land grants. When evidence of boundary is difficult to ascertain or there are conflicts between property descriptions, the court applies detailed rules to analyze the kinds of evidence available.

Basically, in court, determining the boundary is often a complicated factual determination. Because of the complexity of the records, testimony and applicable law, it is not possible to know for certain how the court will rule in the end, another reason to consider settlement.

However, if necessary, an attorney will vigorously litigate a boundary dispute on behalf of a client's position and interest.

The attorneys of Last & Faoro in San Mateo represent landowners in boundary disputes throughout the state of California in negotiation, mediation and litigation.