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Legal remedies in Oregon boundary disputes

A boundary dispute may potentially be resolved informally, administratively or in court, depending on the circumstances.

Boundary disputes in both commercial and residential parcels can come up unexpectedly such as when a survey is done in anticipation of new construction, building or utility repair, or land improvement. Suddenly, the fence, wall, creek, driveway, landscaping or tree line that everyone assumed marked the correct boundary does not match the line the surveyor drew or the deed describes.

Uncertain boundary lines can have financial impact on both contiguous landowners. For example, continuing debate can prevent improvement projects from proceeding or a buyer or seller of one of the parcels may dispute the price if the size of the lot is not as believed at the time the transaction was negotiated – or may want to back out of the deal altogether.

First of all, any business or person facing a boundary dispute should seek legal advice from an attorney with real estate experience in such matters. While legal remedies exist for resolution, it may be smarter and cheaper to resolve the matter through negotiation and settlement. A lawyer can advise the property owner of the pros and cons of the legal approaches available in a given situation and represent the owner in negotiations.

One option is an administrative remedy under Oregon law called a property line adjustment in which an applicant may apply to the designated local government body (for example, the City of Portland Planning and Zoning authorities) for official relocation of a common property line between two lots. The procedures for such an application are complex and may require a survey, a site utility plan and more, including required public filing and recording of certain documents. Added to this, some counties and local governments may not recognize this remedy at all. There may be issues involving the ability to transfer good and marketable title, solely using an administrative remedy.

If a boundary dispute cannot be otherwise resolved, a land owner may file a suit based on Oregon statute in the county circuit court to have the controversy adjudicated and final line determined and physically marked. A suit in equity to quiet title is another potential cause of action. Certain other legal claims may be raised in such a dispute:

  • Boundary by agreement: An express or implied (by conduct) agreement between the adjoining landowners to recognize a line as the permanent boundary when it has been mutually disputed
  • Boundary by acquiescence: A similar concept that allows the court to recognize a disputed or unknown line based on justice because the parties have recognized it for some time
  • Adverse possession: A legal theory allowing title to land to vest in a party if it believes it owned the land and it (or its predecessors in interest) openly and continuously used the land for at least 10 years
  • Prescriptive easement: A similar concept to adverse possession as applied to an easement (the right to use property of another for a specific reason)
  • Trespass
  • Ejectment
  • And more

Oregon boundary dispute law is complicated, technical, and legal counsel should absolutely be consulted to be fully informed and make educated decisions. The Mead Law Firm P.C. has represented commercial and residential land owners in matters of boundary disputes, real estate litigation and related matters, as well as in business and probate issues. Call for a consultation or visit our offices.

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