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Property line dispute - Neighbor removed fence and took over my land.

Clarksville, FL |

A relative is signing over 19 acres to me. Her and her husband originally purchased the property in 1988 and, in the past 10 years since he passed away, there have been several issues with the property lines. I know that one side of the property has a fence several feet on property belonging to a lumber company. The neighbor on the other side claimed that the fence there was also several feet on their property and proceeded to take the fence down. They claimed about an acre. My elderly relative did not fight them and could not afford a survey. Looking online at the property appraisers website, it appears that the land they claimed is, in fact, ours. I will be getting a survey done but am wondering about the legal options if this is the case. Can I get them to replace the fence?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Have the survey done. If they removed the fence from your relative's property and it was done relatively recently, you may have grounds (or your relative) for having them replace the fence. Laches will be in play here and depending on how long ago your relative became aware of the fence removal, you may end up replacing it yourself. If the survey shows the land to be your relative's, then you (she) should hire a real estate attorney to advise on how to best proceed with the replacement of the fence and any negative effects on title. As I commented below, Florida law requires that a party seeking to AP must file - within one year of taking possession - a "return" to the tax collector claiming an interest in the property. The tax collector then notifies the person on record as having paid the taxes to that point (usually the rightful owner) and then the seven year AP clock begins to run. If the neighbor has NOT filed the return, they cannot claim the property by AP.

Carol Johnson Law Firm, P.A. : (727) 647-6645 : carol@caroljohnsonlaw.com : Wills, Trusts, Real Property, Probate, Special Needs: Information provided here is anecdotal and should not be relied upon or considered legal advice. Every matter is different and answers given here are general in nature and may not reflect current Florida law at the time you are reading this posting. Please contact me if you feel you need additional assistance with your matter.

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Asker

Posted

From my understanding, the neighbor informed my relative verbally that the fence was partly on their property (inches in places) and proceeded to take it down. Since then, they have gradually been maintaining (mowing) more and more so that it's now several feet they have taken. Nothing legal has been initiated to the best of my knowledge, even when they were taking the fence down, and she is still paying taxes on the full acreage. But I discovered tonight that the neighbor who took down the fence has since moved so I expect getting a new fence placed is out of the question except at my own expense. Once the survey is done, since that has not been fenced, will I be in my rights to place markers (just inside the line) for a future fence or do I need to get a lawyer and ask for them to get their own survey done if the line is still in dispute? I'm not wanting to spend a lot of money here because I live in Louisiana and have no plans to move back to Florida.

Carol Anne Johnson

Carol Anne Johnson

Posted

If there is a new owner, they may have already had a survey done, in which case, they are probably aware of the discrepancy. I wouldn't recommend putting up a fence until you and the neighbor are on the same page with the property boundary. You might need to quiet title to the property in order to have an adjudicated right to place the fence. Better to wait and see what the survey shows and if the neighbor has any objections.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for the response.

Posted

Possibly. Be sure you have evidence. Depending on the time line, they may have a claim for adverse possession. I would contact a local real estate attorney as soon as possible. Time is not on your side and you may need to "Quiet Title" or get a declaratory judgment as to ownership.

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Carol Anne Johnson

Carol Anne Johnson

Posted

Actually, Cheryl, the law in FL is different than you are used to - they would only have claim for AP if they first filed a return with the tax collector who then notifies the owner of the property. It is not dependent upon a time line absent the filing of the return.

Cheryl Rivera Smith

Cheryl Rivera Smith

Posted

Good to know. Thanks!

Posted

I agree that you should get a survey. However, if the survey shows that the land actually belongs to you, do not tear down the fence on your own. Have a lawyer help you inform the neighbor that the fence is in the wrong place. You do not want a confrontation with your neighbor if you can avoid it.

Disclaimer: This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.

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Asker

Posted

The neighbor tore down the fence that had been there for many years. Apparently they gradually started encroaching more and more on our side (mowing) but they have not placed a new fence so there is nothing between the two properties.

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