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From: (Dani Eder)
Subject: Re: Adverse possession? (Was Re: Fence and property line?)
Date: May 16 1995
Newsgroups: (David Allan) writes:

>In article <3p63bc$>, ()

>What exactly does "adverse possession" mean?  Thanks.

It is based on the theory of property acquisition by use.  In this
theory, the first person to occupy a property gains ownership of it,
as in settling previously un-occupied land.  Adverse posession is when
one person openly occupies another's property for an extended period
and the owner does nothing about it. After a sufficiently long period,
like a few decades, the occupier can gain legal title to the property,
the original owner being considered to have abandoned it by his
inactivity.  This returns it to the 'unowned' state, so by the
aquisition by use theory a new occupier can gain title.

To qualify, the occupation must be open and unconditional.  Thus, 
if you own some woods, and someone secretly builds a cabin there
that you don't know about, that is not open occupancy.  If you
have your property posted 'no trespassing' then that defeats 
adverse possession.  In the case of a boundary fence, if you build
it a foot back of the property line, and you give the neighbor
permission to mow the grass up to the fence for convenience's sake,
that also defeats adverse possession because you can revoke your
permission and both of you recognize who is the owner.

The specific rules appear to vary by state.  I would check that
your deed and his deed (you can look his up in the courthouse)
agree as to the definition of the boundary between you, and that
you have physical markers of the property line other than the fence
you are going to build.  If these are lacking, a boundary survey
is in order.

Finding property lines can be quite complex.  In the case of the
property I bought last year, the original survey didn't close by
25 feet (following the distances and directions of the property
lines should bring you back mathematically to your starting point.
This is 'closure'), and my and adjacent properties had their deeds
recorded 1.5 degrees off of the actual physical orientation.  Both
errors were probably due to the original survey being done with
poor tools (like metal chain and magnetic compass rather than
modern transits).  

Modern surveying for suburban lots should be done accurate to about
1 part in 10,000 (0.01 foot for 100 foot lot line)

Dani Eder

From: (Dani Eder)
Subject: Re: Trees, property line & neighbor
Date: Jun 12 1995
Newsgroups: (Steve Lewellen) writes:

>Our neighbor is interested in removing some trees, that may be on the 
>property line.  There is no definite line (rural) so I suggested he get a 
>surveyor at his expense and if they are on his side then fine, however we 
>are opposed to removing them.  What if they are right on the line?   They 
>are healthy evergreens.  We are in WA state.

I'm not a licensed surveyor, but last year I bought 35 rural acres and
needed to find my own lines, so I got some books on surveying and read
up on the subject.  First of all, there is a property line, and your
deed should describe it, starting from some known reference point, and
possibly including some physical markers.  Go and look at your deed.
If you want to do some research, go look up your neighbor's deed also
in the county courthouse (or ask your neighbor for a copy).

Rough surveying can be done with several tape measures and a high
grade carpenter's level.  Measurements are always horizontal, so if
the land slopes more than a few degrees, you need to sight along
a level reference to get correct measurements.  Corner angles can be
established by using tape measures to lay out a triangle with the
correct length sides for the angle you want.  

The cost of surveying goes up with the accuracy demanded.  How close
do you want to mark your boundaries?  Rural land might be surveyed
to 1/5000 accuracy (about 1 foot tolerance in a 40 acre square lot).
Suburban lots might be measured to 0.01 foot, which is more like
1/40,000 accuracy, since the land is worth more.

Lines in woods were sometimes marked by cutting notches in the trees
nearest the line.  A tree was notched on the side facing the line.
Trees right on the line were notched on both sides.

Your state office should have a copy of the original federal survey 
that divided up the land into sections.  With this and the most
detailed topograhic map for your property, you should be able to
find some starting markers.  If your property is a simple division
of a section (like 40 or 80 acres), you can just tape off and split
distances to get close to your corner.  If any of your neighbors have
good markers, that can help also.

Finally, some of the cost of a survey is for them to clear sight lines.
If your woods have low branches or brush that impedes sighting, you can
lower your cost by doing the clearing yourself.  It is not necessary
to clear right on the property line, just have clear sight lines near
the property line.

Dani Eder

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