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Boundary disputes are much more likely to be in the residential sector than in commercial dealings. That said, everyone has heard of neighbors squabbling over fences, driveways, and other improvements made to someone’s home. Boundary disputes can get ugly quickly, costing a bundle in court fees. You could even be found to be at fault, unbeknownst to you, if there are any irregularities found during the dispute.

Instead of waiting for a boundary dispute to happen to you, you might want to be proactive, and hire a property surveyor to check your boundaries. This will be especially helpful for those with larger homes with big yards, or with garages and other buildings on the edge of their property. A surveyor can help you uncover many things, including:

Boundary Lines: One of the most common reasons a landowner seeks the assistance of a surveyor, the location of boundary lines and other lines of occupancy or possession is a critical piece of information to have before you build a fence, add a sunroom or pave your driveway. All too often the survey shows that you and your neighbors were operating under the wrong assumption about the placement of the boundary line between your properties. Before you have that fence erected, you want to make sure it will be built on your property, not your neighbor’s. The boundary line certification will also tell you whether the legal description of your property is accurate.

Right of way, easements, and abandoned roads: A survey will show all the conditions imposed by law that are reflected in your property’s title report and other agreements. If your property blocks your neighbor’s access to the road, for example, there may be an old agreement that gives your neighbor the right to walk across your yard to the street.

Joint driveways, extensions, right-of-support: Unbeknownst to you or your next-door neighbor, you may have an obligation by law to support your neighbor’s driveway by maintaining your own.

Existing improvements: The surveyor can certify that the buildings and other improvements, alterations, and repairs to your property that exist at the time of the survey are not in violation of laws or other restrictions such as those regarding height, bulk, dimension, frontage, building lines, set-backs, and parking. Of course, the surveyor will also tell you if your latest improvement is in violation of a local ordinance or other law, which will put you on notice that a change is in order.

Zoning classification: You probably know whether your property is zoned for residential or light industrial use. But you may be surprised to discover that your zoning classification puts specific restrictions on how you use your property. This part of the survey simply reports your zoning jurisdiction and classification. Once you have your completed and certified survey, you may want to consult an attorney about whether you are using your property in conformance with zoning ordinances or for other advice about the legal ramifications of your property survey.

If there is a boundary dispute, you might protect yourself by having the property surveyed. You will be prepared and you won’t end up making things personal with a neighbor or landlord if things get to a head.