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Property line dispute - encroachment - historical division of land differs from legal property lines

As a first-time home buyer, I made the mistake of buying a house without receiving or conducting a land survey. When I moved in 18 months ago, there was consensus among residents of the subdivision that - in practice - the property lines followed "the tree lines." Insofar as I know, there has never been a dispute over these divisions.

Recently, my neighbour's new girlfriend created a large flower bed that straddles the tree line between our properties, encroaching by as much as 10 feet onto what, until then, has been commonly believed to be my backyard. The girlfriend's position is that "legally" the property lines are "on an angle," this assertion apparently based on the results of two surveys they claim to have had done (but have not been able to produce), and that they are legally entitled to claim this land. Initially, I thought the matter could be resolved by having a survey done of my own land, so have begun that process. However, I have since learned from a long term resident in the same subdivision that the legal property lines may very well be on an angle.

Although I understand that tree lines are not reliable indicators for property lines, there is more than ample evidence to suggest these tree line divisions may have been agreed upon at a time when such agreements were done verbally. The only known plan of any kind for my lot is a subdivision plan from 1886.

The neighbour to my right has lived at that location for 40 years and can reliably confirm the custom and practice of the division of land for at least that long. The neighbour to the left has lived there for 27 years, has told me when asked that the properties were divided by the tree line, but has apparently changed his position on the matter to align himself with his girlfriend who has taken it upon herself to challenge the division of land as it is and has been used. Both long term residents have told me directly that, for all intents and purposes, the tree lines serve as property lines; the landscaping suggests this is true.

The girlfriend is prepared to surrender the same amount of land on the opposite side of their lot to the next neighbour who, like the rest of us, has no motive or purpose to do so.

What I would like to know is whether there is historical precedence or a specific law that would support my position that the land they are attempting to claim is mine by virtue of the fact that no one has disputed the accepted property lines in 40 or more years.

I would also like to know whether it would resolve the matter favourably - and whether I have the legal right - to deny their claim and put the onus on them to prove it.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.

 

Authors: ratealawyer.com

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