Most properties are neatly cordoned off with the help of fences, shrubberies, or mowing practices. It’s easy to assume these natural barriers are representative of the legal property lines.
But here’s something every property owner should know: They often aren’t. If you have an outdoor project on your agenda, you need to know definitive boundaries before getting started. Altering an adjacent property, knowingly or not, can lead to some serious hold-ups and legal complications down the road.
Do you know the exact property lines of your home or business? If not, it’s time to educate yourself. Here’s how to find, mark, and protect your property lines.
What Defines Your Property Lines?
At the end of the day, it’s the paperwork that determines your property’s dimensions. While natural and artificial boundaries can help mark the cut-off points, they serve merely as guidelines. Not the rule.
Here are a handful of ways you can discover the true scope of your property.
Visit the Assessor’s Website
Before construction began in your neighborhood, it was first segmented by an assessor. These professionals work for the government and determine property taxes and values. If you’re lucky, your area’s assessor has uploaded the neighborhood’s boundaries on an official government website.
Visit your county’s website and search for the assessor’s information. Since these maps span large chunks of your living area, it may be difficult to determine your property lines at first glance. Some counties have special mapping tools that make the process easier.
Take note of some basic landmarks such as the corners of the property map. These will likely be contiguous with your access road, making it easy to determine your home’s boundaries.
Find Your Plat Map
Can’t find your assessor’s boundaries online? The good news is you might already have it.
It’s known as a plat map, and it’s something you should have received when you first purchased the home. If you can’t find it, your local surveyor’s office should have a copy. You may also be able to find your home on the master plat located within the county records.
These plats should include the length and width measurements of your property lines, although older neighborhoods may lack this information.
Look at the Deed
If your home was built recently, your deed will contain a written description of your property lines. It uses a set of landmarks — the corners of your property — to establish the dimensions.
The problem is older homes may no longer have some of these landmarks. For example, it was common to use trees and roads as guidelines. But these can change and disappear over the decades.
Some deeds may instead ask you to consult a previous batch of paperwork for a written description. While you can find these documents in the county records, you’d be better off looking at the master plat.
Contact a Surveyor
Your last option is to hire a professional surveyor to discover the property lines for you. A property line survey usually runs a few hundred dollars. It does, however, ensure modern accuracy which you may not find in vague plats from several decades ago.
But surveyors can make mistakes, too. Make sure you hire one with liability insurance. That way, you’ll be covered if their survey turns out to have misleading information.
Mark Your Property Lines
Once you know your property lines, it’s a good idea to create physical boundaries to mark them. Otherwise, you may have to dig up the old plat again a few years later.
Construct a Fence
Fences are one of the most popular ways to create a boundary between you and your neighbors. Not only do they create a clear visual representation of your legal possessions, but they also deter others from wandering onto your property.
You should note, however, that you should never install a fence directly on the property line. This creates a situation where your neighbor may share ownership and maintenance of the boundary. It also puts you at risk of constructing parts of the fence on your neighbor’s property, which can result in a legal headache.
Since fences are such a delicate matter, be sure to hire the best industrial fencing contractors in your area. They’ll ensure everything is secure and up to code.
Erect Above-Ground Markers
Wooden stakes were a popular method of establishing corner landmarks on most properties. But that practice has mostly fallen out of favor, seeing as the fragile wood has a limited lifespan.
Nowadays, most surveyors and property owners take advantage of durable metal rods. These stand a few feet out of the ground and are typically tipped with orange since they can present a tripping hazard. Metal markers should have a lifespan of several decades and never leave you questioning the location of your property lines.
Underground Metal Pins
Some companies and surveyors implant metal pegs underground. They serve the same role as standing above-ground markers, except they’re more secure and less of an eyesore.
You’ll want to have the professionals install these for you since there’s a risk of affecting municipal powerlines hidden under the surface. To find your boundaries later on, get your hands on a metal detector to locate the metal pegs.
Know Your Boundaries
Never take for granted the location of your property lines. It’s an easy assumption to make, but it can come at the cost of a small fortune in legal fees. The next time you need to manage an outdoor project, check the accuracy of your property lines and install new markers if necessary.
As a small business owner, you know how difficult it is to navigate commercial legislation. Search our website for more ways to stay on the right side of the law.