What to do when surveys conflict

Question: I purchased my property in 1987. The surveyor had iron bars and wooden stakes at all four corners.

Now, another surveyor comes along and surveys the property on the east side of me and ends up putting two iron bars and wooden markers 2 feet inside of my two markers.

My property was short-platted in 1987, the fence that runs along my property line has been standing since 1960. What is my next step?

Answer: First, contact your title insurance company to see if your policy covers boundary disputes. More than likely it does not, unless you paid extra for an extended coverage title policy when you bought the property.

However, the title company may still be willing to assist you. At the very least, it should be willing to research your property’s legal description.

Next, get a copy of the survey of your property and ask for a copy of your neighbor’s survey.

Look at the two surveys and see how they compare to the legal description of your property. There may be an obvious error that you can catch yourself. However, you’ll probably have to contact the surveyor who did the survey on your property and ask him to explain the discrepancies between the two surveys.

There is usually a definite explanation of why two surveys do not agree. For example, the monument — a visible marker used to establish the starting point for a survey — may have been moved or altered. This can happen when streets are torn up to install utility lines, etc.

Sometimes the monument is replaced in the wrong position.

In other cases there may be more than one monument, causing surveyors to disagree on which to use. In some cases, the monument may disappear altogether and the surveyor must start at a much greater distance from the property, increasing the margin for error.

Modern surveying equipment is much more accurate than the equipment of even a couple decades ago, so the problem is usually not a faulty measurement, it’s more likely to be caused by starting in the wrong place.

For example, if all of the legal descriptions in a given subdivision are based on a starting point in the northeast corner of the subdivision, a surveyor starting in the southwest corner of the subdivision could very likely come up with boundaries that are off by anywhere from a few inches to several feet.

And like any other profession, some surveyors are simply better at their work than others. That’s why you need to compare the two surveys.

Did both surveyors use the same starting point and the same basic information to arrive at their boundary lines? And if they did not, which survey is correct?

In some cases, both conflicting surveys may be accurate because the legal descriptions overlap. That’s why the words, more or less are usually included in legal descriptions.

Another option to consider is the legal principle called adverse possession. Assuming that the 2 feet of property in question is technically on your neighbor’s lot, you may still be able to claim title to the property under adverse possession. To qualify, you must meet certain legal tests:

  • You must have continually used the property for at least 10 years without interruption.
  • Your use of the property must be open and obvious to the legal owner of the property.

    Your use of the property was hostile, meaning that you used the property without the owner’s permission.

    You had exclusive use of the property, such as it was fenced off from the rest of the neighbor’s property.

    It sounds like you might meet those tests, but please consult an attorney. Adverse possession is difficult to prove in court because judges are very reluctant to take property away from one person and give it to someone else.

    Hopefully, you can resolve this dispute amicably with your neighbor by having an attorney draw up a lot line adjustment agreement. This may or may not involve some kind of monetary settlement that is negotiable. But if the neighbors are not cooperative, you may have to battle it out in court.

    The problem is that you never know how a judge might rule. You might think that you have a slam dunk case and the judge could still end up ruling against you. So that’s why it’s much better to try and work out some kind of settlement.

    Mail your real estate questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box, Everett, WA 98206, or e-mail him at economy@heraldnet.com.

    Talk to us

    > Give us your news tips.

    > Send us a letter to the editor.

    > More Herald contact information.

    More in Business

    Reed Macdonald, magniX CEO. Photo: magniX
    Everett-based magniX appoints longtime aerospace exec as new CEO

    Reed Macdonald will take the helm at a pivotal time for the company that builds electric motors for airplanes.

    People walk along a newly constructed bridge at the Big Four Ice Caves hike along the Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County, Washington on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Check out the best tourist attractions in Snohomish County

    Here’s a taste of what to do and see in Snohomish County, from shopping to sky diving.

    People walk out of the Columbia Clearance Store at Seattle Premium Outlets on Thursday, April 25, 2024 in Quil Ceda Village, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Head to Tulalip for retail recreation at Seattle Premium Outlets

    The outlet mall has over 130 shops. You might even bring home a furry friend.

    Brandon Baker, deputy director for the Port of Edmonds, shows off the port's new logo. Credit: Port of Edmonds
    A new logo sets sail for the Port of Edmonds

    Port officials say after 30 years it was time for a new look

    Penny Clark, owner of Travel Time of Everett Inc., at her home office on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    In a changing industry, travel agents ‘so busy’ navigating modern travel

    While online travel tools are everywhere, travel advisers still prove useful — and popular, says Penny Clark, of Travel Time in Arlington.

    Travis Furlanic shows the fluorescent properties of sulfur tuft mushrooms during a Whidbey Wild Mushroom Tour at Tilth Farmers Market on Saturday, April 27, 2024 in Langley, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    On Whidbey Island, local fungi forager offers educational mushroom tours

    Every spring and fall, Travis Furlanic guides groups through county parks. His priority, he said, is education.

    ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Mifthakof, left, shows Gov. Jay Inslee a hydrogen-powered motor during an event at ZeroAvia’s new Everett facility on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, near Paine Field in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    ZeroAvia’s new Everett center ‘a huge step in decarbonizing’ aviation

    The British-American company, which is developing hydrogen-electric powered aircraft, expects one day to employ hundreds at the site.

    Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

    Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

    Red Robin to pay $600K for harassment at Everett location

    A consent decree approved Friday settles sexual harassment and retaliation claims by four victims against the restaurant chain.

    magniX employees and staff have moved into the company's new 40,000 square foot office on Seaway Boulevard on Monday, Jan. 18, 2020 in Everett, Washington. magniX consolidated all of its Australia and Redmond operations under one roof to be home to the global headquarters, engineering, manufacturing and testing of its electric propulsion systems.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
    Harbour Air plans to buy 50 electric motors from Everett company magniX

    One of the largest seaplane airlines in the world plans to retrofit its fleet with the Everett-built electric propulsion system.

    Simreet Dhaliwal speaks after winning during the 2024 Snohomish County Emerging Leaders Awards Presentation on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Simreet Dhaliwal wins The Herald’s 2024 Emerging Leaders Award

    Dhaliwal, an economic development and tourism specialist, was one of 12 finalists for the award celebrating young leaders in Snohomish County.

    New Jersey company acquires Lynnwood Land Rover dealership

    Land Rover Seattle, now Land Rover Lynnwood, has been purchased by Holman, a 100-year-old company.

    Support local journalism

    If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.