I get so many questions on boundary issues, relating to trees, easements, fences and other neighbor disputes, I have to say, "Homeowners, do you know where your property's boundary lines are?"
If not, you could have a problem. You need to find out where your property ends and the next property begins, now, before you get into a dispute with your neighbor. As unlikely as you may think that is to happen, it happens all too frequently. Take these simple steps and understand your property lines now:
1. Survey your property. For this you need a licensed land surveyor (caveat, I am talking about California law, but I believe most, if not all, states require some kind of licensing protocol for land surveyors) who can draw up a survey to be recorded in your County or future reference. Keep a copy for yourself.
The surveyor will also set boundary markers, so that you can see the property borders at a glance. These are usually metal pipes or similar markers. Caution: malicious neighbors have been known to move or destroy markers. That's why the recorded survey is essential.
2. Check with the County to see if a survey is on file already. Then check your property's markers to see if they are in the right place. If a dispute arises, you may need to back up any claim and having some knowledge ahead of time will save money in the long run.
3. Check your neighbor's property in the recorder's office too, to make sure his survey doesn't conflict with yours. Yes, this happens, even with recorded survey.
4. Do not rely on the parcel map filed when your subdivision was created. These show only the placement of the lots in relation to each other and the surrounding parcels, and are not reliable for determining where the actual boundary lines are on the ground.
5. Stay on good terms with your neighbors. Friendly relations do not guarantee there will be no future disputes, but they can go a long way to minimizing animosity and long drawn out legal battles. If a dispute arises, suggest mediation, with a neutral surveyor hired by both parties to help solve the issue, and a professional land use mediator to help you work out differences.
Good luck in staying out of court and on good terms with your neighbors. A nice talk over the back fence can work wonders for good neighbor relations.