Resolution of Arizona boundary disputes between adjacent landowners

The Arizona laws and procedures to resolve such disputes are complex.

People live and work in the Grand Canyon State for many reasons, but high on the list is the extreme beauty and impressive natural features of its land. Buying land in Arizona is an important investment, whether for personal or commercial reasons and when a dispute arises over the property line between adjacent parcels of land, that investment will need legal protection.

The first step in protecting land impacted by a disputed border is to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced real estate attorney who can investigate the circumstances and advise the landowner of his or her various legal options.

Many boundary disputes can be resolved through negotiation of terms to a settlement agreement acceptable to all parties, normally a less expensive resolution than going to court over the matter. Legal counsel can assist and advise in the negotiation process, and review or draft the agreement and related legal documents.

If negotiation fails, several different court actions may be available, depending on the situation. These suits could include:

  • Action to quiet title
  • Action for trespass
  • Assertion of title by adverse possession or boundary by acquiescence
  • Request for damages for trespass, injury to property or commercial loss
  • Action for reformation of deed to correct mistakes or if the parties were mutually mistaken about the boundary
  • Request for an injunction against trespass, to stop development or use, to remove buildings and so on
  • And more

Any lawsuit over a boundary dispute will be factually specific to the land and parties, often involving historical information, surveys, land features, land use, title transfers and legal documents. Such a trial may involve detailed, complex examination of evidence of boundary, including:

  • Surveys and testimony of surveyors
  • Location of lot markers or pins
  • Testimony of owners, previous owners, neighbors, realtors, developers or anyone else involved or with knowledge of the land and boundary at issue
  • Legal documents, especially deeds that include the legal description of the property the grantor intended to transfer
  • Information about potential evidence of boundary such as monuments, buildings, driveways, roads, fences, hedges, gardens, trees, boulders, walls, patios, ditches, bodies of water, or other natural or manmade features

Arizona property law is complicated, including special rules and concepts that may apply in court actions over boundary disputes. For example, if the legal description of a parcel or lot in a deed is clear and unambiguous, that description normally determines the legal boundary without consideration of additional evidence. Unless there is ambiguity in the legal description, the court usually cannot consider additional evidence like testimony to understand the boundaries of the property the seller or grantor intended to transfer.

Special rules also apply if the boundary is the bank of a creek, river, lake or other body of water because of the possibility that the bank could move over time through erosion or other forces.

This article just scratches the surface of the legal and factual issues in a boundary dispute, so legal advice is imperative to understand the options in any given case.

The real estate lawyers of Law Offices of Mark Wm. Hofgard, Esq. represent clients in boundary disputes and title questions from offices in Boulder and Goodyear, Arizona, and Boulder, Colorado.