So, you’re buying a house. You probably get an inspection done on the house as part of the approval process for your mortgage. But do you think about the boundary lines of the property? Maybe the seller tells you the line is at a tree, or a fence. Maybe you don’t even discuss the boundary lines at all. Then how do you know what you are buying? You get a property survey done.
A survey is something that you should have done on any property your purchase, and can reveal all sorts of issues prior to purchase. Maybe that fence isn’t actually the boundary line or the neighbor’s shed is actually on your property. The only way to know a boundary line is to have a licensed land surveyor come out and stake the lines.
If you didn’t have a survey done at the time of purchase, you should have one done prior to beginning any improvements to the property. Make sure the shed or fence you build is on your property. Encroachments can be corrected by a lot line adjustment or removing the encroachment, but the process can be contentious and drawn out. It’s better to spend the money up front than to be blindsided by an issue a few years down the line.
If an encroachment has been in place long enough there could be adverse possession. Meaning someone else can claim ownership of the property. Adverse possession is when someone other than the proper owner can show “twenty years of adverse, continuous, exclusive and uninterrupted use of the land claimed.” O’Hearne v. McClammer, 163 N.H. 430, 435 (2012). The property must be used openly, without the actual owner’s permission, for twenty continuous years and apparent enough that the true owner should notice.
The only way to ensure you are purchasing the full parcel you expect, or that the fence you paid for is actually yours, is to have a licensed land surveyor come out and survey the property.