I bought land 13 years ago which included a 0.1 acre strip that used to be part of the neighbor's family farm for well over 30 years. Within the past three months, the neighbor erected a fence 26 feet over the property line. I'm concerned that the neighbor may attempt to make a claim on the property.
State/Country relating to question: New Jersey
Nothing - only identified the property markers and searching for the survey.
Thank you for using JustAnswer. I am researching your issue and will respond shortly.
You mean to say that your deed actually reflects that you own this 0.1 acre strip? Did you purchase it from your neighbor?
No, I purchased the lot from someone who was going to build, but never did. The lot was originally subdivided from the neightbor's family farm probably 15 years ago (?). The lot size is 2.77 acres. Approx 50' along the length of the property is severed from the majority of the lot by a Drainage ditch. The 50' slice is adjacent to the woman who owns the farmland.
When was this 0.1 acre strip severed from the neighbors land and became part of yours?
It was all part of the 2.77 acre lot that I bought from the previous owner. The previous owner bought it from the farm - as far as I know. The 0.1 acre strip was never legally severed. When I say severed, I mean that the ditch physically separates the strip from the rest of the lot.
I see. Do you happen to know if the neighbor (or a prior owner of the neighboring farm) gave a deed for this strip of land, and if it was recorded ?
No. The strip was part of the 2.77 acre lot as was indicated as such on the survey.
How do you know that the previous owner purchased it from the farm?
And do you know about when this purchase occurred?
The previous owner made references to her acquaintence (possible friendship) with the neighbor who owns the farm. I'm not certain, but I believe she may have bought the lot as early as 1995.
But was there a specific representation by the previous owner that she purchased this strip? Or is this merely an assumption that she did, without an actual statement by her?
There was never a purchase or sale of a strip. The strip is part of the lot which the previous owner bought and sold to me. The person who owns the farm has used it (with my permission)for the photography business she has because it has a treeline which is picturesque. She has also cut hay from it from time to time (without my permission). I have cut it a few times since I've lived there and done some other minor things.
I see. I thought when you said that the 0.1 used to be part of the neighbors property, I thought that this meant that this specific 0.1 strip was sold or otherwise conveyed. You mean to indicate that there is a 0.1 acre strip that is part of your property that she is laying claim to through her actions of putting up a fence on the property, is that correct?
Yes. When I built my house, she approached me about using the treeline for photography since it was nearly unusable by me. That was fine. However, over the years, she would question me about anything I did over there, apparently worried, that I was affecting her ability to take photographs. Now, she has erected a pasture fence that crosses over the Property Line by 26 feet.
Thank you. One moment please while I research this, and will get back to you shortly...
Thank you for your patience. It may be the case that she's trying to acquire title to the property by fencing it in, but assuming that you actually have "record title" to the property (that is, that you own the 50 foot strip on the other side of the ditch and that this is reflected in your deed and in the deed title going back to the original sale of the property) then the other owner would essentially have to possess the land, adversely, against your interest, etc... for a continuous 30 year period before she has a claim to ownership of that land. So you don't have to do anything for 29.9 years, and when you're one month away from that 30 year period, you can literally tell her that she has permission to use your land (permission means that the use is no longer adverse) and it would completely start the 30 year process over. It has to be 30 continuous years.
Now you can also send her a nasty demand letter telling her to remove the fence, if you so wish.
But she would have to possess the land for 30 years to have any claim to it. This is called "Adverse Possession" (aka Squatters Rights) and she would not have a legal claim to the land until 30 years from when she took the adverse action (3 months ago)
OK. That's great information. Now, just so I'm clear, when I bought the land, the "clock was reset" for her to make a claim on that part of the property. She now has to wait another 30 years from the date I purchased it, even though she may have been using it for the past 30 years regardless of who owned it - correct?
No, it's 30 years from when she unambiguously and exclusively claims control over it (without true right of ownership). So merely using it, cultivating it, etc... is not exclusive. But putting up a fence to keep neighbors out would be. So if she put up the fence 3 months ago, that would be an action that would indicate her exclusive control, and that's when the clock would start ticking.
But if there are no fixtures (a woodshed or barn, etc...) that would indicate property lines or perceived property lines, merely maintaining the property would not be enough.
It has to be clear that she intends to exert sole control over it, exclusively. That would mean that she would need to show that she took steps to deprive the true owner of use of the property, and here it only appears that the fence would be that intent.
OK, that's the clarity I was looking for. Thank you very much.
My pleasure.If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, and again, good luck to you!
It will be a 5. Thanks for your attention in the matter and all of your help.
Licensed General Practice Attorney, Texas
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