Why do fences cause title problems?

Updated March 13, 2023.

Fences are a historical way of marking boundaries to land. However, whether by accident or design, most fences are not installed on actual boundary lines. This can create a problem of determining ownership. There is a law in New York, as in most states, that the exercise of control over land, under certain conditions and over an extended period of time, can actually cause ownership of land to be transferred from the true owner to the person who controlled it. This is similar to the concept of “squatter’s rights”. Since fences may be one indication of control over land, the inaccurate placement of a fence may be an assertion of “squatter’s rights” over that land. To eliminate this potential problem, various documents may be required to acknowledge the inaccurate placement of a fence and to confirm that there is no claim of “adverse possession”.

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