I am asked quite often “where do you come up with your articles?” or “Do you purchase your articles?” The truth is from my clients. Almost every article I have written came from a question one of my clients asked. It occurred to me long ago that if this person has this question, then someone else will, I simply don’t use names when I write the article. This week, I received a very nice letter from someone in Riverside asking about marking property with purple paint. So, I thought an article on boundary line disputes and how to avoid them was appropriate.
The record owner of real property (i.e., land and generally whatever is erected or growing upon or affixed to land) owns the property to its boundary lines. It would be difficult to find anyone who would disagree with this statement, but frequently it is not difficult to find people who disagree about where the boundary lines of a parcel of real property are located.
A boundary line is the dividing line of two contiguous properties. When instruments are ambiguous or conflicting with respect to the location of a boundary line, the owners of the affected parcels must resolve, amicably or otherwise, where the boundary is located. To be effective against a subsequent purchaser for value, they should document the location of the resulting boundary line in an instrument filed of record in the official public records of real property of the county where the properties are located.
There are three general sources of information for resolving ambiguities and conflicts in the location of a boundary line: seniority of property rights, priority of calls in a metes and bounds description of the boundaries of the parcels, and the intention of the parties as determined from direct and indirect evidence.
Depending upon the ambiguity or conflict, it may be necessary to look to conveyances which are prior or senior in time to establish the boundary lines, possibly going back in time to the point where there was common ownership. All parcels of land exist in relation to the parcels which surround them. When there are conflicts in descriptions of adjacent parcels of land, senior property rights contained in senior deeds or surveys control over junior deeds or surveys. Descriptions of adjoining parcels which are senior in origin control over all descriptions of these parcels in junior deeds.
When a survey is prepared there are two resulting documents. One is the plat which is a map of the specific land area showing the location of the boundaries. The second is what is called a “metes and bounds” description of the property. This is a description of the land listing the compass directions and distances of the boundaries. Within a single metes and bounds description, conflicts are resolved by certain guidelines typically referred to as the “priority calls” or “rules of dignity of calls.” Ordinarily the calls in a metes and bounds description will have the following priority:
1. Calls for natural objects
2. Calls for artificial objects
3. Calls for adjoiner
4. Calls for course
5. Calls for distance
6. Calls for quantity or acreage.
If the conflict cannot be resolved by an examination of the prior instruments and surveys or the priority of calls within a metes and bounds description, the intention of the parties will control. The intention of the parties is a fact question to be determined by a jury.
In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that allows property owners to mark their boundary lines with purple paint instead of “No Trespassing” signs. The Texas Penal Code Section 30.05 can be used to enforce these purple marks and provides for the use of purple paint to mark property boundaries. Purple markings are required to be vertical lines, 8 inches long and 1 inch wide. The bottom of the markings must be between 3 – 5 feet above the ground. Purple markings can be spaced no more than 100 feet apart in wooded areas and no more than 1000 feet apart in open areas. Markings must be placed in areas visible to anyone approaching the property. Posted signs are still recommended at all access points and gates.
If you find yourself in a dispute with your neighbor over your boundary lines, first try to work the matter out amicably with your neighbor. If you cannot work the dispute out between yourselves, then you should seek the assistance of a surveyor and attorney who deal with real estate.