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Meeko

Boundary trouble with new neighbor

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Please help if you can!

 

My parents bought property in Northern Michigan over 25 years ago and reside in Southwest Ohio.  In Michigan, they bought a small lot with a cabin in a remote area on a river from a couple who had developed the land.  The remaining parcel of land, on the east side of my parents lot, the couple kept, along with the other of the two cabins they had built. There are about 10 properties in all in this area. Many are unoccupied most of the year and used only for vacations.  In addition to the original lot, my parents purchased land on the west side of their property from a neighbor who was selling out and moving away.  Included in this parcel is a deer blind which looks like a small shack. There has never been any trouble with anyone in the neighborhood until last Fall.

 

The couple who had developed the land have both passed away and the property was passed down to their heirs.  My parents were notified about a year and a half ago that they would be selling the land to the east.  All of these years, the two cabins even shared a common electric line and when informed of the sale, my parents had to install their own electric service to their lot.  One day last November, my parents received a phone call from a woman who said she bought the land. (We have since learned that she is buying the property on land contract from the daughter of the original owners.)

 

When the woman first called, she started making trouble.  My parents were out of town and my brother got the phone call.  She claims that part of our driveway is on her property and that the deer blind is hers.  She said that she lives across the state but that her son lives nearby.  She made the statement that my parents might burn down the deer blind if it was hers because her son said that people do that (Why?).  My parents had just recently closed up the cabin for the winter and had not planned on returning until Spring.  

 

The woman then mailed a document that came from the surveyor who my parents had hired when they bought the property on the west side. She marked the area where she thought the deer blind was located, and she marked it on her property.  My dad called the surveyor and he made the statement that he thought the woman wanted my dad to pay to have a survey done to determine the property line.  My dad called the woman and told her that he would not return until Spring and would meet with her then.

 

Several weeks ago, the woman called again.  She said that someone threw something up on her roof and broke into her cabin.  She also claimed that someone had been ice fishing from her property and had a fire on her lot.  Last, she claimed someone broke into the deer blind.  We had a neighbor who lives there check these things out and she took pictures.  From what we could see from the pictures there was a storm door with a cracked window on her cabin and there were three 100 pound propane tanks missing from outside of the deer blind.  My dad and I drove up there two weeks ago to check things out for ourselves without contacting the woman.

 

This is what we learned:

 

1.  There was a new roof on the woman's cabin.  According to a neighbor, there had been a large tree branch on the roof which the roofers burned in the woman's yard.

 

2.  There is no way for anyone to ice fish from the woman's property because the river flows too fast through that part of the river.

 

3.  Someone had removed my dad's lock on the deer blind and replaced it with a new lock in addition to stealing the propane tanks.  The deer blind is back in the woods and cannot be seen from the road.

 

4.  A wooden sign that someone had made for my parents with their names on it and placed on a tree at the end of the driveway was gone.

 

 

My dad is now 80 years old and my mom is 76.  They are both retired.  I cannot tell you how upset they are, along with the rest of our family.  We have poured over what documents we have, such as the deed and surveys, and nothing seems to be coming out the same. We even paid for a GPS photo from the county but that is different, too. It appears that the original survey/purchase left them landlocked but it is unclear.  It was never an issue before. Quite frankly, we don't understand why it should be an issue now, but we all aren't nice people.  We do not understand how property that they had surveyed and purchased on the west side could belong to someone on the east side.  

 

What should my parents do?  Should they be the ones who pay for a survey?  Where should they go for the most accurate recording of the boundaries between them and this woman?  If they do not own the end of their driveway, how should this be handled with what appears to be an unpleasant person?  They have been using it for years with no problems (implied easement).  The same applies to the deer blind.  What if it should turn out to not belong to my parents?  Since the woman does not technically own the property yet, should the actual owner/seller be notified of the problems?  Is there anything she can do?

 

I apologize for this lengthy description.  My questions should be clear, but if not I will clarify.  Thank you for your consideration!

 

 

 

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Meeko,

 

Thank you for the post. You will want to do a couple things that may lead to the need to speak with an attorney. The county must have a recorder's office where you can view the official documents pertaining to your borders as well as any deeds that appear in your chain of title. You will want to see what kinds of things appear to have been recorded such as any real covenants or equitable servitude (only to the extent that they pass to future owners of the same land). Read up on what those things are adverse possession and color of title (specifically definition no. 2). Those are some concepts you should familiarize yourself with. Here are some articles that may help:

 

Michigan Adverse Possession Laws

Details on Adverse Possession Laws

 

You will then want to speak to an attorney about all of this. If you need help searching for one you can use this link.

 

The FindLaw.com Team

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Despite your long post, I am not sure what you are asking. If the survey shows different boundaries, they are welcome to have their own survey done. Or move the deer blind to what is clearly there property. I don't see why it matters that someone was ice fishing on her property, or held a bonfire, or broke a window. Your parents did not. They were not there and do not know who did those things. Just tell the neighbor that and let her deal with it on her own. If the driveway must be moved, it must be moved.

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LOTS of needless detail....

 

Here's my short translation of the relevant information in the first five paragraphs:  Your parents own two adjacent parcels in Michigan.  One has a cabin on it; the other has a duck blind on it.  In November 2015, a person who is buying a neighboring property under a land contract contacted your parents and claimed that a portion of your parents' driveway and the duck blind are on her property.  "Several weeks ago," she contacted your parents a second time and reported multiple instances of alleged criminal activity on her property.  A couple weeks ago, you and your father visited the property.

 

It's not clear why she reported the alleged criminal activity to your parents.  Are we to infer that she accused your parents of the various things mentioned?

 

 

What should my parents do?

 

The answer to this question really depends on what your parents' neighbor wants, which you didn't mention in your post.  Obviously, she has raised an issue about property boundaries.  Your parents can investigate that if they want.  Or not.  It's up to them.

 

 

 

Should they be the ones who pay for a survey?

 

If they want to hire a surveyor, they'll have to pay for it.  If they don't want to hire one, they don't have to do so.

 

 

 

Where should they go for the most accurate recording of the boundaries between them and this woman?

 

The boundaries of each property are (or should be) spelled out in your parents' deeds for the two parcels they own and the deed for the neighboring parcel.  I assume they have copies (or the originals) of their own deeds, so the starting point of an investigation would be to review those deeds and to obtain a copy of the neighbor's deed.  Unless the descriptions of the properties contained in the deeds are clear and they can pinpoint the driveway's location based solely on the descriptions in the deeds -- which probably isn't the case for middle-of-nowhere property -- they may need to hire a surveyor and/or a real estate attorney.  The attorney could work in conjunction with the surveyor to render an opinion about the boundaries of the two properties.  Whether or not the cost of something like that is warranted really depends on what the neighbor is seeking and/or threatening.

 

 

 

If they do not own the end of their driveway, how should this be handled with what appears to be an unpleasant person? . . .  What if [the duck blind] should turn out to not belong to my parents?

 

Determining a strategy depends on (1) what the neighbor wants, and (2) what the reality is regarding the boundary between the properties.  We can proceed based on the assumption that the neighbor's claim is correct, but we don't know what she wants.

 

 

 

Since the woman does not technically own the property yet, should the actual owner/seller be notified of the problems?

 

Yes -- if for no other reason than that the terms of the land contract (a copy of which I assume your parents don't have) may be relevant.

 

 

 

Is there anything she can do?

 

Undoubtedly there are thousands of things she "can do."

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Meeko,

 

Thank you for the post. You will want to do a couple things that may lead to the need to speak with an attorney. The county must have a recorder's office where you can view the official documents pertaining to your borders as well as any deeds that appear in your chain of title. You will want to see what kinds of things appear to have been recorded such as any real covenants or equitable servitude (only to the extent that they pass to future owners of the same land). Read up on what those things are adverse possession and color of title (specifically definition no. 2). Those are some concepts you should familiarize yourself with. Here are some articles that may help:

 

Michigan Adverse Possession Laws

Details on Adverse Possession Laws

 

You will then want to speak to an attorney about all of this. If you need help searching for one you can use this link.

 

The FindLaw.com Team

Thank you for your help.  I will look all that up.

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Despite your long post, I am not sure what you are asking. If the survey shows different boundaries, they are welcome to have their own survey done. Or move the deer blind to what is clearly there property. I don't see why it matters that someone was ice fishing on her property, or held a bonfire, or broke a window. Your parents did not. They were not there and do not know who did those things. Just tell the neighbor that and let her deal with it on her own. If the driveway must be moved, it must be moved.

Since my parents are on a limited income, and surveys are expensive, are they responsible for having the property surveyed and pay for it, or is the woman who is buying the property responsible?  You are right about what happens on her property is not our concern, but the deer blind is supposed to be ours and it seems that she thinks it is hers, and not only has something been stolen from it, but a new lock placed on it.  What would you do?  As for the current owner/seller, can she do anything to help with this situation?  Thanks for your feedback.

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LOTS of needless detail....

 

Here's my short translation of the relevant information in the first five paragraphs:  Your parents own two adjacent parcels in Michigan.  One has a cabin on it; the other has a duck blind on it.  In November 2015, a person who is buying a neighboring property under a land contract contacted your parents and claimed that a portion of your parents' driveway and the duck blind are on her property.  "Several weeks ago," she contacted your parents a second time and reported multiple instances of alleged criminal activity on her property.  A couple weeks ago, you and your father visited the property.

 

It's not clear why she reported the alleged criminal activity to your parents.  Are we to infer that she accused your parents of the various things mentioned?

 

 

 

The answer to this question really depends on what your parents' neighbor wants, which you didn't mention in your post.  Obviously, she has raised an issue about property boundaries.  Your parents can investigate that if they want.  Or not.  It's up to them.

 

 

 

 

If they want to hire a surveyor, they'll have to pay for it.  If they don't want to hire one, they don't have to do so.

 

 

 

 

The boundaries of each property are (or should be) spelled out in your parents' deeds for the two parcels they own and the deed for the neighboring parcel.  I assume they have copies (or the originals) of their own deeds, so the starting point of an investigation would be to review those deeds and to obtain a copy of the neighbor's deed.  Unless the descriptions of the properties contained in the deeds are clear and they can pinpoint the driveway's location based solely on the descriptions in the deeds -- which probably isn't the case for middle-of-nowhere property -- they may need to hire a surveyor and/or a real estate attorney.  The attorney could work in conjunction with the surveyor to render an opinion about the boundaries of the two properties.  Whether or not the cost of something like that is warranted really depends on what the neighbor is seeking and/or threatening.

 

 

 

 

Determining a strategy depends on (1) what the neighbor wants, and (2) what the reality is regarding the boundary between the properties.  We can proceed based on the assumption that the neighbor's claim is correct, but we don't know what she wants.

 

 

 

 

Yes -- if for no other reason than that the terms of the land contract (a copy of which I assume your parents don't have) may be relevant.

 

 

 

 

Undoubtedly there are thousands of things she "can do."

Thank you for your response.  I like the way you break it down.  I suppose I thought that if she is buying the property, then she should have the survey done, not my parents.  My question was related to the current owner, Is there anything she can do to help with the woman who is buying the property on land contract?  Other than being told that she was wanting my parents to pay for a survey, we do not know what she wants.  We do suspect her or her son, of breaking into our deer blind, changing the lock, and stealing the gas tanks, but she thinks it is hers.  

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Since my parents are on a limited income, and surveys are expensive, are they responsible for having the property surveyed and pay for it, or is the woman who is buying the property responsible?

 

I suppose I thought that if she is buying the property, then she should have the survey done, not my parents.

 

No one is "responsible" for doing anything at this point.  If this claim turns into a lawsuit, the neighbor will likely have the burden of proving what she claims.  If she wants to convince your parents that what she claims is true, then a survey presumably would help.  If there's any reasonable probability of this issue (I'm not sure it's a "dispute" at this point) going that far, it probably would be advisable for your parents to have a survey done beforehand.  As I mentioned in my prior response, if they want to get one done (or feel that their best interests dictate getting one done), then they'll have to pay for it.  One possibility would be to speak with the neighbor and see if she'll split the cost.

 

 

 

What would you do?

 

Depends on a lot of facts I don't know, including what this woman has demanded or requested, if anything.

 

 

 

As for the current owner/seller, can she do anything to help with this situation?

 

My question was related to the current owner, Is there anything she can do to help with the woman who is buying the property on land contract?

 

We have no way of knowing this person's capabilities.  I see no harm in contacting her to discuss the situation, but she may not want to get involved.

 

 

 

Other than being told that she was wanting my parents to pay for a survey, we do not know what she wants.

 

So...she called your parents, told them that she thinks a part of their driveway and the duck blind are on her property, and said she wants your parents to pay for a survey, and that's it (your original post also mentioned the miscellaneous criminal activity)?  If I had received that call, my likely response would have been something along the lines of, "ok...why would I want to pay for a survey?  Why is it that you believe part of the driveway and the duck blind are on your property and not mine?  Since you're the one making the claim, why don't you pay for a survey?"

 

If my neighbor approached me and told me that he believed my house is built on the property line, the first thing I'd do is question the basis of his belief.  If he didn't have any basis in fact for believing it, the conversation wouldn't go any further.  And, while I might pull out my deed and read it, that would be the end of the matter until and unless he came back with some evidence to back up what he claimed.

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No one is "responsible" for doing anything at this point.  If this claim turns into a lawsuit, the neighbor will likely have the burden of proving what she claims.  If she wants to convince your parents that what she claims is true, then a survey presumably would help.  If there's any reasonable probability of this issue (I'm not sure it's a "dispute" at this point) going that far, it probably would be advisable for your parents to have a survey done beforehand.  As I mentioned in my prior response, if they want to get one done (or feel that their best interests dictate getting one done), then they'll have to pay for it.  One possibility would be to speak with the neighbor and see if she'll split the cost.

 

 

 

 

Depends on a lot of facts I don't know, including what this woman has demanded or requested, if anything.

 

 

 

 

 

We have no way of knowing this person's capabilities.  I see no harm in contacting her to discuss the situation, but she may not want to get involved.

 

 

 

 

So...she called your parents, told them that she thinks a part of their driveway and the duck blind are on her property, and said she wants your parents to pay for a survey, and that's it (your original post also mentioned the miscellaneous criminal activity)?  If I had received that call, my likely response would have been something along the lines of, "ok...why would I want to pay for a survey?  Why is it that you believe part of the driveway and the duck blind are on your property and not mine?  Since you're the one making the claim, why don't you pay for a survey?"

 

If my neighbor approached me and told me that he believed my house is built on the property line, the first thing I'd do is question the basis of his belief.  If he didn't have any basis in fact for believing it, the conversation wouldn't go any further.  And, while I might pull out my deed and read it, that would be the end of the matter until and unless he came back with some evidence to back up what he claimed.

Thank you!

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In essence your parents issues are initially factual, not legal. Is the deer blind on your parents property or not. Until that question is answered no one can give a valid legal analysis.

Thank you!

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