Phillips & Angley

Understanding the lingo could keep you from crossing the line

One of the biggest considerations regarding your property is where it begins and ends. In some cases, you and your neighbor or some other third party could end up in a dispute regarding exactly where those lines lie. Boundary disputes can quickly become complicated and could require court intervention to resolve.

As you attempt to resolve the matter, you could hear several words thrown around by the other party or the attorneys. Understanding the meanings of those words may alleviate some of your frustration and trepidation regarding the process as you work to resolve your property issues.

The lingo regarding property rights and boundaries

You may hear one or more of the following terms during the course of your boundary dispute:

  • Survey: First, this involves outlining your property lines, boundaries and corners using distances and measurements. Secondly, the document outlining these results takes the same name.
  • Boundary: This describes the mark or line separating your property from that of your neighbor.
  • Servient estate: This describes any portion of your land subject to an easement.
  • Easement: An easement grants another person the right to use a portion of your property. Numerous types of easements exist.
  • Spite fence: Your neighbor might erect a fence to annoy you, disrupt your view or interrupt your access to light. Otherwise, the fence serves no useful purpose.
  • Nuisance: Your neighbor might use his or her property in an unreasonable or illegal way to annoy you, inconvenience you or otherwise infringe upon your property rights.
  • Lateral support: Your rights to have the land next to you support your land. For example, if the only way to get to your land is through your neighbor's land, you require lateral support.
  • Environmental indemnity: This is when the owner of an easement releases you from any liability if an environmental issue arises on the portion of your land given in the easement.
  • Consideration: The value, such as money, that you receive or provide in exchange for any agreement you enter into regarding property.
  • Dominant estate: This defines the land that receives benefit from the servient estate.
  • Monument: A monument is some sort of marker — such as a pillar, tree or post — that marks the boundary between you and your neighbor's property.

The glossary of real estate terms includes many more than this list, but these are the ones that you may hear most often during a boundary dispute. If you hear other terms used in reference to your situation, you should feel free to ask your attorney what they mean and how that term applies to your particular situation.

Legal assistance with boundary disputes

Any number of issues can come up regarding the dividing line between your property and your neighbor's. In addition, an easement holder or someone seeking an easement on your property could require you to seek legal assistance. A Massachusetts real estate attorney could prove invaluable in explaining your rights and helping you resolve any issues as efficiently as possible.

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