Practical Considerations with Boundary Issues
(from September 2022 TerraBite)
Terrafirma offers these practical considerations for land trusts during monitoring visits:
- Assist monitors with issue spotting on the annual monitoring form, such as including:
- If one or more encroachments noted or possible, are there other potential encroachments?
- Can you 100% verify the precise location of the property boundary? Yes or no. If it is not yes, then the answer must be no and flagged for senior staff to visit the site the same year to determine the location.
- If staff cannot precisely determine the boundary after senior staff visits the site in the same year, then file a Terrafirma claim and consider next steps.
- Is there new or recent construction on either side of the boundary? If yes flag for senior staff to visit that same year to determine precise property boundary and any possible encroachments. Remember to file a Terrafirma claim if there is any encroachment or any unresolved question.
- Convene a landowner meeting to determine the line and have the landowners mark the boundary.
- Use GPS to arrive at a shared understanding of the boundary and mark it by legal means with the landowners if there is no survey.
- Ask landowners to share with you a line flagging by a surveyor if there is an existing survey.
- Consider a boundary agreement where there is no survey.
- As last resort, obtain a survey of the line in question but be sure to have filed that Terrafirma placeholder claim in the policy year in which the doubt first arose.
- File Terrafirma placeholders immediately if there is any doubt of any kind (doubt is anything less than 100% certainty).
- Any monitor assumptions, presumptions, or doubt about their ability to actually locate the precise boundary should be reflected on the monitoring form.
- Land Trust Standards and Practices does require that you be able to ascertain all property boundaries.
- Mark property boundaries near human activity including homes, camps, and forested properties.
- Some creativity may be required to avoid resentment, anger or litigation with neighbors. In cases where placing signs or T stakes along the property line may not be well received, consider plantings of some kind to mark the line or an electronic means like burying a cable that can be registered by monitors with equipment.
- You may well be able to devise other means that are not visually intrusive.
- Land trusts should, however, be mindful that boundaries abutting high-use areas used by neighbors and frequented by the public are where many problems occur and boundary lines in those areas should be identified.
- If you have a known encroachment or trespass even if it is nominal such as an annual leaf pile, stonewall pilfering, trail, artwork, playhouse, fence and such, please immediately file a Terrafirma claim and work with the neighbor to first agree on the boundary and then remove any encroachment.
- If an adverse possession claim results consult a trial attorney immediately for next steps and inform Terrafirma.
- If the Terrafirma claim was not timely filed when the encroachment first started there may not be coverage.
If you have questions about boundary-related matters, please contact Leslie Ratley-Beach at lrbeach[at]lta.org.