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Boundary Lines, Encroachments and Additions

 House Location Surveys contain this Surveyor’s Legend:

I hereby certify that I have located the improvements on the property known as ___ And the improvements are located as shown. This plat is not to be used for the purpose of establishing property lines.

The reality of this legend is that you should not rely on your house location survey for establishing property lines or constructing buildings or additions or expensive fences, because the mere location of improvements on a platted lot is not a guarantee of perfection of location and property lines.

House Location Surveys are often done shortly before a settlement as a quick “drive-by” with quick measurements to make sure that the house is located on the lot and that there are no visible encroachments. A prudent homeowner should always take a tape measure and verify locations in relation to lot corners or sideline that have been marked with stakes or other boundary markers. However owners should also know that stakes often get placed by owners and are not necessarily set correctly by surveyors.

In order to be certain of your boundaries if there are any encroachment issues a property owner should pay for a field measured boundary line survey and have corners marked with a surveyor’s registered survey marker.

Maryland recognizes a 20 year statute of limitations for removing encroachments or crossing paths. Once 20 years has passed, the burden shifts to the encroached upon owner to prove that the original encroachment was permissive. If the encroachment was provably permissive then the grantor of the permission has the right to revoke permission and require removal of the encroaching structure. This of course means that 20 years ago the neighbors knew that there was an encroachment and had an agreement. These agreements are always best documented with an easement recorded in the land records spelling out the terms of the agreement and rights to revoke and remove encroachments. Oftentimes the passage of 20 years causes lack of agreement and claims of rights that may not have been agreed to 20 years earlier.

Before spending large sums of money to design an addition or expensive fence or pool a property owner should definitely hire a licensed surveyor to measure exactly the front and rear and side line setbacks, and locate wells and septic systems and other improvements. If a major addition or improvement is contemplated, a detailed surveyed site plan with all setbacks and wells and septics labeled should be done before spending architectural fees on a building that does not fit on the lot.