Many times neighbors realize that what they thought was there boundary line really isn’t. With modern technology, it is much easier for lay people, and surveyors, to find an accurate boundary line for a person’s property. The invention of GPS is both good and bad, you now know what you really have. The Courts have had to deal with this issue by coming up with rulings to figure out who the true owner of a property is. Adverse possession and acquiescence are two of the main theories to try and determine the legal boundaries of a person’s land. These theories deserve articles of their own and won’t be dealt with in this article. Many times a fence line or other monument is what all property owners thought was the property line and it isn’t. In the Columbia Basin, due to the fact that parcels are not round, many times an irrigation circle will go over the property line onto a neighbors piece of property. In dealing with this issue, legislators passes WAC 458-61A-109 to deal with boundary line adjustments. Boundary line adjustments are a method to make minor changes to existing property lines between two or more contiguous parcels, meaning that the parcels must be touching where the change occurs. A few examples of common boundary line adjustments are the following, which are used as examples in WAC 458-61A-109:
(i) Moving a property line to follow an existing fence line;
(ii) Moving a property line around a structure to meet required setbacks;
(iii) Moving a property line to remedy a boundary line dispute;
(iv) Moving a property line to adjust property size and/or shape for owner convenience; and
(v) Selling a small section of property to an adjacent property owner.
Boundary line adjustments can’t be used in every case. For example if you are in the county and your lot size is already the minimum required, unless the neighbor agrees to do a trade, it may not be the answer you are looking for to remedy a problem. Boundary line adjustments must follow the legal requirements for your area, such as your county, city, and/or state. There is usually a process, and most times a surveyor is strongly advised, if not required. Most areas also require a deed to transfer the property that must be filed with the Auditor. To work up that deed, you may need an attorney. The survey map and the deed must both be filed, and any easements, restrictions, covenants, etc that go with the property need to be spelled out on said documents.
Boundary line adjustments are an excellent tool that are oftentimes overlooked as a solution. Cheaper than a lawsuit, easier than a lawsuit, and the answer that may save your relationship with your neighbor.