Tag: Trespass

Boundary Disputes in Georgia

Unfortunately, neighbor disputes over boundary lines are common. These disputes often involve the placement of driveways, garages, and fences. These disputes are serious because they create uncertainty, expose property owners to potentially adverse outcomes, and falling out with your neighbor is unpleasant and stressful.

Legal Descriptions

When boundary disputes arise, a property owner must first determine what property belongs to them and what property belongs to their neighbor. Each time a property is sold, the seller gives the buyer a deed. The deed is supposed to include a “legal description” that describes the property’s boundaries. Unfortunately, sometimes legal descriptions lack enough detail to accurately know where the boundaries are. And even when the legal description is sufficient, unless the property already has surveyor pins or other permeant markers, it is not easy to know the exact boundaries.

Surveys

Usually, a boundary survey from a licensed surveyor is required when a boundary dispute occurs. In these situations, a licensed surveyor reviews the real estate deeds, comes out to the property, physically measures the property, and installs pins to mark the boundaries. Based on the surveyor’s research and physical examination, the surveyor creates a written diagram that visually shows boundaries, property improvements, and encroachments. On rare occasions, if the real estate deeds are unclear, a surveyor may be unable to generate an accurate survey. Also on rare occasions, one surveyor may disagree with another surveyor.

Encroachments

When there is disagreement regarding an encroachment or an alleged encroachment, you should consider calling an attorney. If a property owner does not resolve these disputes, they may lose land or be liable for damages for trespass, including punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. And, an owner may be forced to incur the expense of removing a fence or tearing down an improvement. All of these outcomes are expensive and often preventable with good legal representation.

What to Do If You Have a Boundary Dispute

1. First and foremost, regardless of whether you think you know where the boundaries are, get a surveyor to check and confirm. This is especially true when you buy a property or make improvements (for example, installing a fence).

2. If the surveyor cannot establish the boundaries (because the legal description is insufficient) or there are two surveyors who disagree, you should attempt to enter into a written boundary agreement with your neighbor.

3. If you still do not see eye to eye with your neighbor, consult with an experienced real estate attorney. There are many nuances to boundary disputes, such as adverse possession, whether a prior fence has established a new boundary line by acquiescence, oral agreements, and other agreements by prior owners that may be binding (“run with the land”). An experienced real estate attorney can guide you through these issues, ultimately saving you money, improving your odds of a positive outcome, and alleviating unnecessary stress.

Call Us

We are available at 404-382-9994 to discuss any questions you may have concerning a boundary dispute.

Georgia: Injury to Real Estate

          The Georgia legislature has passed several statutes to protect landowners against interference with and injury to their real estate. The starting point is that enjoyment of private property is an “absolute right” of every citizen. Any interference with such enjoyment creates a tort (wrongful act or an infringement of a right resulting in civil legal liability). OCGA § 51-9-1.

            To the extent a person wrongfully deprives a landowner of possession of their property, the landowner can seek to recover possession and sue for damages for such injury to real estate. OCGA § 51-9-2. Similarly, if any person wrongfully interferes with a landowner’s possession, the landowner can seek damages. OCGA § 51-9-3.

            Likewise, if a person wrongfully enters the landowner’s land or property without permission, a landowner to bring an action for trespass for injury to real estate. OCGA § 51-9-4. Trespass applies to persons wrongfully on land and applies to such things as improperly placed improvements or causing flooding on a landowners’ property. Anyone or anything that comes onto someone’s land due to wrongful conduct of another person can be a trespass. Suppose two persons claim possession of the same land. In that case, the person with title to the land is deeming to be rightfully in possession. In contrast, the other person is deemed to be a trespasser. OCGA § 51-9-5.

            Regarding damages for trespass, such damages are limited to damages incurred up until an action is filed. OCGA § 51-9-6. Damages that occur after filing a lawsuit create a new cause of action.

            Regarding streams (more formally called non-navigable watercourses), such landowners are entitled to the natural and usual flow of the stream across their property. If a person wrongfully diverts the stream from its natural and usual flow or lessens the value of the stream, this is considered trespass. OCGA § 51-9-7. The same applies to underground streams and interference of the space below and above the land’s surface. OCGA §§ 51-9-8 and 51-9-9. The last grounds for bringing a trespass action is if a person wrongfully interferes with a landowner’s right of way. OCGA § 51-9-10.

            Finally, a landowner claims damages if any person wrongfully puts the landowners’ title to the property in question. OCGA § 51-9-11. When this happens, it is known as slander of title. An example would be if a person files a fraudulent deed on the public record and this deed causes the rightful owner’s title to be clouded. Clouded means that there is a possible issue with title. Wrongfully clouding title is considered an injury to real estate in Georgia.

            If you are a landowner and your enjoyment of your land is being interfered with or violated, please call us at 404-382-9994 to discuss your options.