Whether you own an empty lot or a home in a residential neighborhood, chances are your land adjoins land that’s owned by another individual, business, or corporation. Because boundary lines aren’t always precise—and because both property owners may have different views of where their property lines begin and end—conflicts can occur when one property owner builds a fence, cuts down or plants trees, or alters the land in some way.

Settling boundary line disputes can be difficult unless there is clear evidence showing where each property owner’s land begins and ends, and many cases must be resolved in court. Hodge v. Cornelison and Thornburg v. Chase are two Tennessee Court of Appeals cases that established the current process for settling boundary line disputes in the state.

What Are the Common Types of Boundary Line Disputes?

Boundary line disputes are uncommon over land that’s unaltered. However, when alterations or construction begins, disputes are common when property lines aren’t clearly established. Some of the most common boundary line disputes include the following:

  • Construction of property improvements, including fences along boundary lines that are known to one property owner but not to the other
  • Land alteration that interferes with the use of a property, such as blocking a driveway or walking path
  • Adverse possession disputes that arise after the use of someone else’s property for at least seven years—including property that is adjacent to their own

In many cases, boundary line disputes can be solved before reaching litigation by speaking with a neighbor before starting construction or attempting to alter the land. However, that’s not always possible, and in some cases, property owners must solve the dispute through the court system.

How Do Courts Resolve Boundary Line Disputes?

When a boundary line dispute is brought to court, information such as written deeds and the written testimony of surveyors is initially considered to determine each property owner’s assumption of the exact boundaries of their lots. The testimony of the surveyor is by far the most important evidence. If your case goes to Court you will be required to have a survey done. Surveyors consider many factors including:

  • Natural objects and landmarks
  • Artificial monuments and markers
  • Boundary lines of adjacent landowners outside the property dispute
  • Courses and distances

Ultimately the Court will have to determine whether your surveyor or your neighbor’s is correct. The Court cannot place the boundary in the middle and must determine which surveyor is right. This means that one side wins completely.