Boundary Disputes In Florida Real Estate Litigation
There are several different reasons why boundary disputes between neighbors might occur – though most of the time, property owners will add fences or other landscaping features to their land over a period of years and it will simply be accepted out of ignorance or complacency. However, a legal boundary is a legal boundary, and this type of dispute can cause issues, especially if the property comes up for sale. An open dispute regarding your boundary lines can also lead to a drop in property values, depending on the specific nature of the issue. Either way, it is highly recommended that you resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.
Should I Bother?
Most people think of boundary disputes as dealing with fences, but in truth, any type of structure or landscaping may wind up triggering an issue if it infringes upon your neighbor’s land. If you believe that your neighbor has encroached upon your land, even by a small amount, it is generally a good idea to deal with the problem, though the temptation may be there to let it be, especially if your neighbor has occupied that land for quite some time. The problem with allowing the trespass to continue is that Florida observes a doctrine called adverse possession – if someone occupies land “under color of title” (that is, as if they had title to it) for 7 years, they are then said to have taken possession of the land.
Once you are certain a dispute exists, determining the best method to go about eliminating it is the next step. Many decide to file suit against their neighbor, but it is often not a good idea, given the cost of litigation and the length of time that discovery can take in real estate matters. In addition, a lawsuit over what is often a minor issue like a fence can breed lasting ill will between neighbors. Alternative dispute resolution like mediation is another option which can be cheaper and quicker, but every situation is different.
Going To Court
If alternative dispute resolution does not work for you, there are generally two types of lawsuits that you may choose to file. The first is referred to as an ejectment suit, effectively throws your neighbor off the land in question, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and permanently damage your relationship with your neighbors. The second is to seek a declaratory judgment, which does not involve monetary damages; rather, it is simply asking the court for a firm determination as to who owns the land in dispute.
Keep in mind that even in a declaratory judgment proceeding, your neighbor has defenses that they may articulate. Adverse possession is one of them – they may be able to show that they have used the land ‘under color of title’ for 7 years. They may allege that the deed or other evidence you have showing your property lines is erroneous or that a later deed exists. Either way, it is important to keep in mind that an amicable arrangement is always preferable, if possible.
Call A Tampa Real Estate Attorney Today
In many instances, a neighbor encroaching on your land may not a particularly pressing issue, but it can become one in a hurry. If you have a boundary dispute with a neighbor, it is a good idea to contact a Tampa real estate attorney. Our experienced attorneys at the Seward Law Office, P.A. have handled many of these cases, and we can offer dedicated and knowledgeable representation in yours. Call our offices today at (813) 672-1900 to schedule a free consultation.