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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 33714
Experience:  15 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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Can a new land owner take ownership of a part of your property if he buys land next door t

Customer Question

Can a new land owner take ownership of a part of your property if he buys land next door to you from an absentee landowner whose rental tenant had mistakenly fenced off a piece of your property from you unknowingly for years and then the absentee owner sells his place which includes your property that was fenced off from you. All without you or the previous owner having any knowledge of the mistake.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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Can you tell me how long the fence has been in place?
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Did the previous owner's tenant have permission to put up the fence?
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Nobody has ever lived on either of these two deep country properties within recent memory except for me and I purchased my place about 30 years ago and moved here about 20 years ago. The property next door has never had a dwelling but it has been rented to cow folks for grazing yearly for probably 60 to 75 years by a family who owned that property but they lived 100 miles away and never visited the place. That property has been deeded to the same family for three generations until they recently sold it to a new owner who recently completed a survey of the property. That survey reported 335 acres however the original deed he purchased was described as the east half of section 17, 320 acres more or less. My deed description says I am on the west side of the west side of section 16. So the section line between sections 16 and 17 is our property boundary. Nobody was aware that the north section line post between these two properties was moved a 135 feet east onto my section 16 at some point in the past by one of the cow tenants until this new survey made it clear that the property next door to me had an additional 15 acres more than the deed described. I suppose all cow people have the job of fencing but not on the section line that they do not rent. So no permission was given.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, thank you for that information..
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So do you have any idea how long ago the fence was put up?
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The fence may have been moved 40 years ago possibly. Since this may have been done by old people who no longer are alive there is no way to say how long ago it was moved. Nobody ever checked the location of the true section line until earlier this year. The front of the property post is on the section line but the back post was the one that had been moved and nobody was ever aware of it until now. The new owner contends he owns what is fenced in and I have advised him I will be taking my property back and re-fencing. I have been paying taxes on that section line for 30 years and I'm still paying taxes on it.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, then I am afraid that I have some unpleasant news.. Under the legal doctrine of "adverse possession" if someone who is legally a trespasser uses the land of another person for a statutorily prescribed period of time, then they can claim legal ownership of it.
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In Alabama the period of time for adverse possession must be at least ten (10) years. Alabama Code 6-5-200.
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So if the other owner can prove the fence has been up at least ten years, either during their possession or by "tacking" on their possession and any previous owner's, then they could file a "quiet title" lawsuit against the record owner of the property and have a judge issue an order awarding them full legal possession of the area that has been fenced and used for at least ten years.
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You could attempt to eject the neighbor from the land, but if he filed a quiet title suit and proved it had been fenced for at least ten years, he would win.
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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
This new owner has owned that property less than a year and has made no improvements and he has never paid a tax on it. I suppose none of that would matter?
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Unfortunately, the legal doctrine of "tacking" allows him to add on any previous owner's use and possession of the disputed area to his own time to meet that 10 year statutory requirement for claiming ownership.
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I am sorry that the news isn't better.
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thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
ok, thank you for your time.
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
You are very welcome. Glad to help even if the news wasn't very good..
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If you feel your original question and any related follow ups have been answered, I would very much appreciate a positive rating on the answer I have provided so I receive credit for my work. If you have a new question the JustAnswer folks require that you start a new question page, but you can request me by putting "For Barrister" in the caption and they will get it to me.
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thanks much
Barrister

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