Where’s My Property Line?!?

Posted June 9, 2019 in Real Estate Trends

Scott Hogan, Clark County WA real estate agent

You’re sipping lemonade by the pool when a surveyor hammers a wooden stake with an orange flag into your yard, three feet on your side of the neighbor’s fence! What happens next is up to you and the neighbor: as long as the two parties agree, you can relocate the fence to match the surveyed boundary line, agree to adjust the line to match the fence, do nothing, or “lawyer up” and head to court.

In Washington State, surveys are not required in a real estate sale. This saves parties thousands in up-front costs, but can lead to large and small headaches after the fact. In subdivisions, the “plat” (subdivision map) IS a survey, at least for subdivisions done in the last several decades. By looking at the plat, you can see exact measurements of each lot, find lot corner-markers that can be matched on the ground, and get a pretty good idea of where the lot lines are. Rural properties, and those in older subdivisions, are trickier. In many cases, only a surveyor would be able to say with authority where the line is. And, unless a survey was done at the time a fence (or boundary wall like a rock wall) is installed, it’s very common for the fenceline to be off by a little or a lot.

How does title insurance come into play? That’s a trickier answer than you might think, depending on what type of title insurance policy you have, whether it’s the fence or a structure that’s over the line, and whether the error is in your favor or to your disadvantage. Rarely does title insurance cover you when it’s discovered in a survey done after closing that your neighbor’s fence is on your property—you could say this is to discourage people from being too aggressive when those orange flag-stakes go in: “Get your fence off my property or my title company will sue!” Usually, you are covered if you are forced to remove an existing structure (as opposed to a fence or wall) from the neighbor’s property, or even if the neighbor builds a structure—even after you buy the property–that is on your side of the line. Sometimes, you are covered by title insurance if you are forced to remove your fence from the neighbor’s property.

To be certain, contact your title company if the surveyor interrupts your pool party!

Clark County Title is ready to team with you to make this Summer of 2019 a great season to buy, sell or refinance. Please call our friendly, professional staff—and if you’re a title or escrow professional, give me call—I’d love to have you join our growing team!

Scott Hogan

Clark County Title

1400 Washington St, Ste. 100
Vancouver, WA

3200 SE 164th Avenue, Ste. 219
Vancouver, WA 98683