Disputes over boundary lines or other encroachments are fairly common, but are nevertheless inconvenient for property owners in Arizona. It is in the parties’ best interests to resolve these issues, even if it creates temporary conflict amongst neighbors. However, be prepared to head to court—if arbitration and mediation are not successful, litigation will be necessary.
Here is a quick guide to Arizona litigation regarding disputes over boundary lines or other encroachments.
Encroachments in real estate are defined as violations of property boundaries, as in a neighbor impeding the use of a property owner’s land. These are typically unintentional but can still lead to disputes over boundary lines if left unresolved. Some examples of encroachments include overgrown trees, location of fencing or location of other structures that extend beyond the legal boundary of a property.
As a homeowner, you may not take issue with an encroachment, but failing to address the situation can lead to serious legal ramifications. You are liable for everything on your property, so damages or injuries related to an encroachment would be your responsibility and could lead to litigation. It also may be more difficult to resell the property once potential buyers learn they have to deal with an encroachment.
Right by Adverse Possession
If you have unknowingly encroached upon a neighbor’s property for many years, you may have a right by adverse possession to the part of the property you have been using. Adverse possession is a legal term referring to a person’s right to claim property owned by another.
Under adverse possession, the possessor may acquire legal ownership of said land and may continue to productively use the land. Please note there are many procedural requirements, such as a “hostile” and “open and notorious” use of the property for 10 years.
Property owners who may be in this scenario are advised to hire a surveyor and an experienced real estate attorney to help obtain a quit claim deed or file a quiet title lawsuit. By defining boundaries legally, owners can avoid litigation regarding disputes over boundary lines.
Overview of Easements
Another common type of boundary issue in Arizona is related to easements, or declarations that allow non-owners to use property for specified purposes. Easements may be held by adjacent property owners or by third parties. For example, if a family cannot access the county road without crossing a neighbor’s property, there is most likely an easement stating they are allowed to use the designated portion of the neighbor’s property to access the road.
Easement holders are only allowed a “reasonable use” of the easement, so problems arise if easement holders want to expand the use of the easement beyond what is reasonable. Once again, an experienced real estate lawyer can help navigate disputes over these encroachments.
Arizona Litigation Regarding Boundary Disputes
For parties that pursue litigation regarding boundary disputes or other encroachments, the first step is to gather legal evidence of the true boundary lines. Thoroughly review your property deed and find the legal description of your property, including where the boundaries are supposed to be. Once you have established these, you and your attorney will file a quiet title claim asking the court to resolve your dispute.
All parties should be aware that attorney fees are not typically awarded in quiet title action lawsuits. However, A.R.S. 12-1103 states attorney fees may be awarded if a special action is brought asking a party to quitclaim and the party refuses to comply.
Find an Experienced Phoenix Real Estate Attorney
The attorneys at MacQueen & Gottlieb have significant experience with various types of property boundary disputes in Arizona. Our firm can help you collect all the necessary evidence, review it for accuracy, propose a fair settlement, and pursue litigation and appeal work if necessary. If you have questions or are involved in a dispute over boundary lines or other encroachments, contact us today at (602) 726-2229 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.