The basics of a Delaware boundary dispute

A boundary dispute can be resolved either by negotiation or in litigation.

Disputes and misunderstandings about where the true boundary lines are between parcels of land is more common than most think and come in an amazing array of factual scenarios. Delaware law, largely court made, that applies to such disputes is fairly complex. Because the stakes can be high in such a situation, it is a good idea for a property owner to consult with experienced legal counsel to understand what property rights exist and the options for asserting them against the neighbor.

Practically speaking, it can be smart to pursue negotiations to try to resolve a boundary dispute without having to go to court, which can be expensive, divisive and adversarial (it is your neighbor after all) and drawn out. For example, the neighbors could agree to draw the line halfway between their asserted boundaries or they could agree to jointly hire a surveyor whom they both approve and accept his or her expert conclusion about the boundary location.

A Delaware real estate lawyer can represent his or her client in such a negotiation as well as draw up or review the settlement agreement and other legal documents such as deeds needed to carry out the intentions of the parties.

If negotiation is not an option or fails, with his or her lawyer’s help the property owner can consider the pros and cons of a lawsuit to resolve the situation. Examples of possible Delaware causes of action in a boundary dispute include:

  • Quiet title action to remove a cloud on a title or clarify ownership rights in a disputed strip or parcel
  • Slander of title alleging that false representations about the plaintiff’s land title harmed its value
  • Interference with quiet enjoyment of property
  • Estoppel by deed asserting that action was taken in reliance on deed language and changing the deed would inflict harm
  • Adverse possession in which title to land vests after someone other than the record owner possessed it for at least 20 years continually, openly, notoriously, exclusively and with hostility
  • Prescriptive right-of-way or easement asserts adverse possession of an easement that would allow passage over a parcel
  • Easement by estoppel asserts reasonable reliance on a statement of another that an easement exists
  • Easement by implication when use of a parcel split off from another necessitates an easement over the original land to get to the new parcel and such use has been continuous
  • Ejectment to have the party in possession of land ordered to leave so the true owner can take possession
  • Trespass
  • Declaratory judgment action asking the court to sort out and declare the parties’ rights to the disputed strip
  • Request for an injunction in which the court would order the neighbor to take or refrain from a certain action
  • And more

Boundary dispute litigation can be complicated involving extensive witness testimony, expert testimony such as by surveyors, strict court rules of construction and calculation of sometimes imprecise money damages. Hiring an attorney with specific real estate litigation experience who can keep costs reasonable and proceed with efficiency is important.

The real estate lawyers at the Law Offices of Bonnie M. Benson, P.A., in Lewes and Camden, Delaware, represent clients in boundary disputes and a wide array of other real estate matters.