Whether you bought your house 5 years ago or 15, you may not know exactly where your property boundaries lie. Although you mow your lawn to the same spot each week, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where the line falls. So, before you even begin the process of adding a fence or other structure, you’ll want to double check this information with the help of a few key resources.
When you bought the house, you should’ve received both a copy of the deed, as well as a property survey. The deed should contain specific measurements regarding the boundary lines, including landmarks to help paint a picture with words. Using measuring tape, stakes, and some patience, you should be able to recreate the described borders in real time. If you’re struggling, the property survey can help.
The survey is a visual rendering of the information provided in the deed. Ideally, they’ll match in terms of measurement, but this also shows the property’s relation to the street, as well as the neighbors. For those having difficulty mapping the border with the deed, this piece of information can be particularly invaluable. However, not all properties will come with a survey. While it’s often recommended, it’s not always required; therefore, some home owners will forgo this option, along with the expense. If you don’t have one, you may want to consider having a surveyor come out to add this to your personal records.
Since information concerning property taxes and boundaries are a matter of public record, you (and your neighbors) have access to this information without acquiring any special permission. By law, your local municipality’s office is required to maintain and share information, often through a property mapping tool. In the state of Maryland, we have access to MdProperty View, which you can find online here: http://planning.maryland.gov/OurProducts/PropertyMapProducts/PropertyMapProducts.shtml. Unfortunately, these documents aren’t made for the average layperson, but rather experienced surveyors. Thus, it’s not always easy to discern or even recreate your boundaries from such resources.
Make Your Own
As we already mentioned, if you’re not sure where your boundary lines lie, it’s best to hire a surveyor to come out. The expense can vary from place to place, along with the experience level of the professional in question, but it can save a lot of money and hassle in the future if you end up entering a property line disagreement with your neighbor.
If you and your neighbor are in agreement about where the borders fall, though, there could be an easier way. You can make a lot line adjustment agreement that shifts the property lines. To make it official, however, you’ll both have to create and sign detailed, modified deeds that confirm the change. This may also need to be approved by the local zoning committee and/or your mortgage company, depending upon the situation. After that, you’ll have to formally file the agreement with the county records office, so they can update their records. While this may seem overly time consuming and/or bureaucratic, it’s designed to protect both home owners from future litigation.