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Construction Projects and Boundary Disputes

Construction projects are exciting!
But sometimes, even construction projects that start out as exciting have
unexpected twists and turns, which quickly dampen the excitement. For
example, oftentimes, through a property survey as part of the planning stage of
a construction project, a client will discover that the property's boundary
lines are not where he (or the adjoining neighbors!) thought they were. A
survey can reveal a myriad of issues, ranging from not enough distance between
the structure and the property line to build the desired project, to a
neighbor's shed, or garden, or patio that is encroaching on the property.
If you suddenly find yourself with a boundary line issue, especially if you are
in the middle of a construction project, retaining an attorney quickly might
afford you opportunities for resolving the issue and keeping your project on

Boundary disputes are sensitive matters,
both because of the personal nature of one's property and the general desire to
keep the peace in a neighborhood. Many times, there are solutions
available that can balance both sides of this scale. A homeowner with
boundary line questions should seek the advice and counsel of an attorney, but
a few key points should be kept in mind:

  1. Owners
    of adjoining property may be able to establish ownership or the right to use a
    neighbor's property through the doctrines of "adverse possession" or
    "prescriptive easement." Contrary to what many homeowners believe,
    however, these claims are not available for all types of property in
    Minnesota. In fact, adverse possession and prescriptive easement are only
    possible claims if the property at issue is abstract property. For
    Torrens property, these claims are barred by Minnesota statutes, although the
    adjoining owner may have a similar, but distinct claim for practical location
    of boundary. However, all of these claims involve proving very specific
  2. In
    dealing with encroachments, oftentimes there are solutions that go beyond a
    simple either "the land is mine" or "the land is yours" analysis. For
    instance, through the use of instruments like easements, an owner may be able
    to retain ownership and certain control of the land, but also permit a
    neighbor's use (oftentimes for a fee).
  3. Boundary
    line disputes often raise related questions about trespass, conversion (e.g.
    removing a fence), and nuisance (e.g. removing a natural barrier or something
    else that interferes with one's use and enjoyment of her property). Such
    claims can quickly escalate a boundary line dispute.
  4. The
    law aside, boundary line disputes are impactful in ways that cannot easily be
    quantified or even put into words. Among other things, a protracted
    dispute regarding one's property with one's neighbors is a surefire way to
    squelch the excitement of a construction project.

Keeping these key points in mind and
seeking counsel as soon as you recognize a boundary line issue will hopefully
allow you to keep your project on track and any dispute minimal.

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Thompson Tarasek Lee-O'Halloran PLLC

7101 York Avenue South, Suite 255
Edina, MN 55435

Phone: 612-568-0215
Fax: 612-564-6976
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