May 24, 2020

The Art of Negotiation in Property Development: Boundary Resolution

By Focus Engineering In Expertise, Projects, Services, Team No comments

The history of borders and boundaries is rich with wars, congressional action and court cases. Boundary disputes have torn apart countries and even families and neighborhoods.

A dispute often comes about when someone is buying, subdividing, improving, or building on land. The precise boundary lines may have been lost in the many times the property has changed hands or when a rotting fence has been replaced.

When issues of boundaries and encroachment arise, property owners seek the expertise of the FOCUS survey department to resolve property description issues. Survey Department Manager Spencer Llewelyn regularly fields calls from a landowner who needs the assistance of a licensed surveyor or right of way professional to ensure property lines are accurate. “Whether it’s a fence line between homeowners or a parking lot intrusion at a commercial property, our goal is to provide solutions and resolution,” explains Spencer.

At FOCUS, fact-checking is an important first step taken. We carefully review deed descriptions and work to gain a full understanding of the cause and nature of the boundary dispute. “Many times, the deed descriptions on record are incomplete and/or ambiguous,” explains Evan Wood, Senior Land Surveyor. “They may have been written 60+ years ago and the measurements may not be accurate because of the methods and instruments used for surveying at that time. To resolve differences between recorded vs. measured distances requires a thorough understanding of the history of the property. The cause of most boundary disputes can be identified through an accurate survey of the property using modern survey instruments, along with reviewing original survey records and performing a title search.”

Once the issue is identified, the art of resolution and negotiation comes into play. FOCUS has learned the best way to resolve a boundary issue is to open a discussion with the affected property owner. Spencer finds it helpful to meet with the neighbor and neighbor’s surveyor, explain the issue, and then work together to resolve the dispute. When an agreement is reached, a boundary line agreement is signed, notarized, and recorded with the County Recorder.

Every piece of land has a history and attorneys and title companies enlist FOCUS to uncover and resolve title issues. Once a property title is drafted, we provide the legal descriptions for property lines.

One hotel that sits in an area known as Motel Row in Salt Lake City is one of 20 or so hotels built after World War II along US Highway 40 that linked Colorado with California. Old property deed descriptions originated from railroad details. When the farmer who owned the land decided to split up his property to give to his children, inaccurate legal descriptions were prepared creating about a 16-foot shift in the math of the deed descriptions from a survey monument and the fences of the properties that the deeds were describing.

Spencer and Bryan Economy, Survey Department Crew Chief, discovered the boundary issue and set up a meeting with angry neighbors to find a resolution. Although the dispute is still unresolved, Spencer and Bryan worked tirelessly on the client’s behalf to minimize real estate transactional risks required by title companies.

In another instance, FOCUS is working on a residential neighborhood that abuts a commercial property. All the deeds are located from one monument, but there is a discrepancy in where the monument is located. Spencer met with the surveyor for the commercial property and a representative from the title company to review the commercial property survey and the residential property survey. Based on our understanding of the monument location, we staked out the property line to show them that we honored the location of his survey. Through this negotiation on the location of the monument and the resulting boundary lines, we reached a boundary line agreement.

Our survey department has learned the surveyor’s role in conflict resolution is vital. Armed with a solid understanding of the laws, rules, and regulations that govern both the profession and rights of property owners, we work diligently on behalf of our clients to resolve the tangle of boundary lines.