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Boundary Line Property Title & Lake Rights

Boundary Line, Property, Title, and Lake Rights Disputes

Real estate is a unique form of property because, for the most part, land can be neither created nor destroyed. Largely because of the unique aspects of real property, a unique body of law governs the purchase, sale, lease, transfer, and taxation of real property. Disputes are common, and they can be difficult to resolve without the assistance of an experienced New York property boundary line lawyer. Following is a summary of some of the most frequently encountered real property disputes.

Boundary Disputes

Neighbors as well as nations dispute boundary lines, and errors are common. The most common types of boundary line disputes include the following.

Lot Line Disputes

A lot line dispute usually occurs when a property owner surveys the land for a construction project and discovers that the results of the survey are inconsistent with expectations. Public property records often resolve the dispute.


An encroachment occurs when an improvement crosses a neighbor’s boundary line. This improvement might be a building, landscaping, or fencing. If the dispute is real, it can be resolved in several different ways, such as the granting of an easement, the sale of a small portion of land, or the demolition of the improvement.

Easement by Necessity

An implied easement by necessity arises when someone needs to cross another’s land to access something that they have a right to access. In rural locations, for example, a property owner may need to cross a neighbor’s land to access the only water source or public road in the vicinity. Courts are generally sympathetic under these circumstances.

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is an ancient common law concept, still valid in New York, that allows an open and notorious trespasser to claim title to real property if a certain amount of time passes. New York law on adverse possession is complex, but this is the basic idea.

Boundary by Acquiescence or Practical Location

A boundary by practical location typically establishes a natural barrier, such as a stream, or a man-made object, such as a fence, as the practical boundary between neighboring properties. If the two neighbors acquiesce to it long enough, it becomes an actual boundary by acquiescence or practical location.

A boundary by practical location is a way of establishing a boundary not by reference to a survey or deed, but by reference to the behavior of the owners. In this way it is similar to adverse possession. It differs from adverse possession in that it is not based on a hostile act by one neighbor, but rather by (typically) by mutual mistake by both.

Title Disputes

Title disputes are about who owns the property in question. Even if you have a deed tucked into a safe deposit box, your title could fall into dispute for a number of reasons, including:

  • There is a tax lien on your property (from a previous owner) that you didn’t know about;
  • Your property is subject to an easement (someone else’s right to cross);
  • You bought the property at an estate sale, and the previous owner’s heirs show up from overseas to claim the property;
  • Your deed turns out to be forged; or
  • A clerical error committed long ago has clouded your property’s chain of title, making it difficult for you to prove your title.

The foregoing scenarios are only a small sampling of the possible circumstances when your ownership of real property could be called into dispute. Clearing title, if you are able to do it at all, could get complicated.

Lake Rights

An entire neighborhood surrounds a beautiful lake. So who owns the lake? Well, if the lake is in New York, then the case of Fulton Light, Heat, & Power Co. v. New York established that the surface waters are held in the public trust. This normally means that members of the public can swim, boat, fish, and conduct other noncommercial leisure activities on the lake, even if they don’t live nearby.

Subject to the foregoing rights, if you own lakefront property, you can use the lake water in front of your property (by building a fishing pier, for example) as long as you don’t harm your neighbor’s or the public’s use of it. A dispute might arise when your use of the lake comes into conflict with the rules of a homeowner’s association concerning:

  • Membership fees;
  • Limits on boat size;
  • Speed limits for boats;
  • Veto rights on the construction of any structures in or over the water; or
  • The maintenance and appearance of any structures or improvements.

Ultimately, the rules governing your use of the lake are the consequence of a complex interplay between your rights, the rights of your neighbors, the rights of the public, and the rules of any homeowner’s association with appropriate jurisdiction.

Other Types of Property Disputes

It is impossible to classify every conceivable type of real property dispute into a few discrete categories. Some common disputes that do not fall within any of the foregoing categories include:

  • Landlord-tenant disputes,
  • The terms of homeowner’s association agreements,
  • Utility easements,
  • Vicious dogs, and
  • Zoning issues.

Some of these disputes can be resolved easily, while others are almost certain to require the assistance of a New York property boundary line attorney.

If you are involved in a dispute over real property, or if you anticipate such a dispute arising, contact our proven New York property boundary line lawyers at Hacker Murphy through our online contact page, or simply call us at F:P:Sub:Phone} to schedule a consultation. Our offices are located in Albany, Latham, Saratoga, Schenectady and Troy.

Have Questions?

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    1. Do not discuss your situation with anyone except your attorney.

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  • What is the difference between criminal procedure and civil procedure?
    When a crime has been committed, action is taken by a government agency against the person, persons, organization or other entity that violated the law. The first purpose of a criminal prosecution is punishment, which frequently consists of a fine or jail time. In a civil matter, the dispute is between two or more individuals or entities. The first purpose of a civil prosecution is obtaining compensation for the wronged person or entity. Settlement in a civil matter is generally an award of a money judgment. A criminal sentence is not imposed in a civil matter.
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