How Do I Locate My Property Lines?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Property lines are important for determining what belongs to you and what belongs to your neighbor. Home owner liability can be a challenge with regard to things like trees that may have branches overlapping two properties. How do I locate my property lines?

"Getting Blueprint of Your Home"

Before you plant a tree, build a fence or extend your house, you need to know where the boundary line is between your property and the next. Most people "assume" that a fence may mark the correct property line. This might not be true. Serious legal problems could result if you placed something on your neighbor's property.

The first step for finding your property lines is to look at the ground of your property. As many neighborhoods were being developed, the construction crew would place a wooden post or cement block to mark the borders of each subdivision. You might want to make a quick drawing of your property noting landmarks.

Second, look for your property deed or surveyor map. You should be able to get these at the local government office.

"Local City or County Property Office"

If you do not have your property deed, then you should go down to your local city assessor’s office or county recorder’s office to get a copy. You might even be able to view it online. On the property deed, there will be a section called "Legal Description." This will consist of the surveyor coordinates establishing your property lines.

"Hire Surveyor or DIY"

The modern surveyor uses laser equipment to site fixed points and landmarks. The surveyor's map is also called the "plat." While you can survey your property yourself, only a professional surveyor can modify official property lines.

There are two primary methods for conducting a survey: "Metes and Bounds" or "Public Land Survey System." Metes uses direction (or bearing) and distance (or length) to determine the property lines, like an array. The traditional process uses landmarks to determine boundary lines, like a tree or a post.

The Public Land Survey System was set up to create a square grid of the United States with each section consisting of 640 acres. A sample Legal Description of your property might be the following: "NW 1/4 of section 22."

Another great resource is the United States Geological Survey collection of maps. Or if you have GPS, you can double-check these other measurements.

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