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fly

What would you do?

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You all likely saw my post last month about purchasing 32.49 acres for hunting. I walked the borders with a surveyor and discovered that three tree stands were on my property. One was a good 100 yards from the border while the other two were about 20-30 feet. I believe these stands belong to the owner (we'll call John). John owns a 7 acre bean field to my east. A neighbor to my south indicated John was the only person hunting in the area and believed he had been hunting in areas he didn't own. While I do not like to create conflict I also don't want anyone hunting on my land (even if it's only 20-30 feet). John has also been farming on my ground (about 1/6 acre). I obtained John's address from my realtor and sent him a letter indicating I had the property professionally surveyed and had placed stakes on the boundary lines. I said please avoid farming on my land and that I would be removing the stands I found. I provided my contact information and asked him to call me and I would leave the stands on his land to retrieve later. After 2 weeks he did not contact me.  I therefore removed the stands and placed them on the boundary line where a stand had been located. I left a note in a ziplock bag indicating I had sent a letter to the property owner and did not hear back. I indicated I did not want anyone hunting on my property and also not to farm on the property. I placed no trespassing signs up and purple paint so the boundaries are clear. I also called the conservation officer for my area and explained the situation. He said that legally the stands came with the property and I could keep them. Even though it's legal it didn't seem right to me. What do you all think?

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1 hour ago, fly said:

I said please avoid farming on my land and that I would be removing the stands I found. I provided my contact information and asked him to call me and I would leave the stands on his land to retrieve later. After 2 weeks he did not contact me. I therefore removed the stands and placed them on the boundary line where a stand had been located. I left a note in a ziplock bag indicating I had sent a letter to the property owner and did not hear back. 

Think you handled it just the right way, give him an opportunity to get back with you.  John may be on vacation, or mail may be like our mail often is and may not have gotten to him or maybe delayed.  Only other thing I might try to do would be to find a number for him, tough to do these days, but not impossible.  

1 hour ago, fly said:

I indicated I did not want anyone hunting on my property and also not to farm on the property. I placed no trespassing signs up and purple paint so the boundaries are clear. I also called the conservation officer for my area and explained the situation.

Good to be proactive.  Ideally you will meet the guy under good circumstances and be able to have a good standing, unfortunately that does not always work out.   Chances are if he has been hunting on what is now your land and on others without permission and he knows he has been trespassing then you may have some issues with him.  On the other hand, maybe someone had given him permission prior and he had not removed his stands yet, or maybe there had been some question on the lines.

1 hour ago, fly said:

He said that legally the stands came with the property and I could keep them. Even though it's legal it didn't seem right to me. What do you all think?

Have heard this before, think giving farmer "John"  the opportunity to get his stands back is the right thing to do and will leave you with a better opportunity for a decent relationship with your neighboring landowner.  By doing what you can to do what you think is right you will know if things are or go sour it is not due to anything you have done.    

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Yea, I was not able to get the number, just the address. He lives 40 minutes from the property and he purchased it in 2015. I felt like searching for a number was a bit much. There was a trail camera up when I saw the place for the first time but it was gone a couple weeks later when I did the walk through with the surveyor. I thought about waiting longer but the woods are already getting real buggy, hot, and full of briars. It was 80 degrees yesterday! I'll hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

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Think giving them a chance to clear stands out was fair...  farmer may also had given others permission to hunt prior to you buying it. You may want to let him plant that, and offer to buy the beans OR corn on that part of your land. You have a ready to hunt  food plot and dont have to work it or plant it.

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Frank...we had the same situation happen on our place in MO once near a line that was not marked until we had it surveyed and marked it ourselves.  What we did was...pulled the stand, left a note in a zip-loc bag and gorilla tapped the bag to the tree.  The note said their stand was found on our property so we removed it.  We left our contact information and if they wanted it back to call us.  That was during the end of spring turkey season that year.  They finally called before bow season.  Gave us a chance to meet a couple of guys that hunted the bordering property.  Since then, we've had good relations with them.

Now...2 years ago we found a ladder stand that had been set on the edge of one of our crop fields ~150 yards north of the same line.  We called the same guys that bordered us to the south back in the timber there.  They said it wasn't theirs.  Well, since we'd owned the property for over 5 years at that time we pulled the stand and moved it out.  We didn't leave a note for that one.

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It sounds like you handled it correctly. Who knows why his stands were there...he could've had permission at some point in time, or just not known the property lines if they weren't marked very good. I like to give people the benefit of doubt, especially when first getting to know them. It's too bad he hasn't reached out to you to apologize & introduce himself. We have found stands that didn't belong to our group before. Usually it's from one of the neighbors giving someone permission to hunt & doesn't show them the property lines. They wonder around, find some deer sign, and hang a stand. The few times it has happened we track down who they belong to, they apologize & come take the stand down with out any issues. We have some neighbors that live around our hunting property, so generally they know who owns what, who leases what, and how to get a hold of them.

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Thanks for the tips and stories. Al, I thought about taking them home but I don't have the space for all three stands. I figure I'll leave them where they are until December and if no one contacts me or moves them I'll just set them up on other areas of my property.

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Another issue. So now the 87 year old farmer on my eastern and southern side is claiming that the old and un-maintained and crooked cattle fence is the border line and NOT the markers placed by the surveyor. The fence staggers from being on the line to 50 feet away in some areas. It was placed in the easiest places due to the topography of the land. He said since the fence has been there for 20+ years he can claim Adverse Possession. The realtor and myself will be speaking with him about it next week. The hidden joys of being a land owner I never knew about!

Edited by fly

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1 hour ago, fly said:

So now the 87 year old farmer on my eastern and southern side is claiming that the old and un-maintained and crooked cattle fence is the border line and NOT the markers placed by the surveyor. The fence staggers from being on the line to 50 feet away in some areas. It was placed in the easiest places due to the topography of the land. He said since the fence has been there for 20+ years he can claim Adverse Possession.

Check with a property attorney Frank, would not count on the realtor.  Likely an attorney could tell you Illinois law over the phone as a courtesy without costing you a dime.  Best to know the laws in your state before you get into a possible confrontation and know the process as to how to resolve the issue if it comes down to it.  Fences can be tricky, especially if neither party has placed the fence or maintained it.  Some of those adverse possession claims can be a big headache for both parties and not worth the court battle to resolve it.  We had a similar issue here with the persons who bought the farm beside us when he had loggers start cutting without any survey, they were going off the old fence.  Old fence was nowhere near a straight line, zigged and zagged with trees and was well over on us.  The actual line on both their deed as well as mine had the line being a straight line from point to point.   I shot his north line off his deed to our boundary with my rangefinder from his pin on his north east side and pointed out to him that that line the fence was well over on me.  His wife was got pretty nasty and ran off at the mouth about her family being in realty and spouted off about adverse possession and the fence, I asked if she maintained said fence.  We ended up coming to an agreement and they stayed 30 ft off the fence and they did not cut over that line. 

Good luck with it.

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I hate to say it, but I think he has a valid claim.  The time this should have been addressed was when it was discovered that the fence did not follow the property line.  If the survey occurred prior to your purchase of the land and indicated acreage purchased, it should have been addressed then.  In short, you would have lost that acreage either way.  Just make sure you do not pay the taxes on that piece.

It is a strange law that allows trespassers to take possession of someones property.  If the realtor and prior owner were aware of the property disparity then it should have been disclosed and the realtor should have been aware of the adverse possession laws.  I would hold the realtor responsible for the whole mess.

If the neighbor wants to file an adverse possession claim I say force him to do it, either by erecting a new fence or filing a trespassing complaint against him.  Make it official and let him pay the taxes.  It will cost both of you somewhere north of $50,000.00 if you fight it.  I you do not fight it, then his costs will probably in excess of $10,000.00.  Or maybe you can come to a gentlemans agreement.  I doubt he realizes the cost.

Good luck!

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Existing fence does NOT qualify as a property line PERIOD!   We find this alot in our timber sales, with sattelite/GPS surveys, that is what determines the lines of property within 2 inches. Fence is no longer a valid factor.

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16 hours ago, Mathews XT Man said:

Existing fence does NOT qualify as a property line PERIOD!   We find this alot in our timber sales, with sattelite/GPS surveys, that is what determines the lines of property within 2 inches. Fence is no longer a valid factor.

Property lines aside, if someone uses your property as if it is theirs for a certain period of time (5 to 20 years depending on which state you are in) and you have never addressed the issue by either filing a trespassing complaint or getting an offficial written lease/rent agreement, then they can file an adverse possession claim and be give legal title to that piece of property.  If you purchase a piece of property with a boundary issue that you are aware of at the time of purchase, you are accepting the fact that the neighbor may lay claim to any property they have been using.  Most people are unaware of the laws regarding real estate and it is the responsibility of the realtor to explain any issues that may arise.  As stated in my previous post, it is expensive just to file and even more so if contested.  I would have to think the value of the property in question would have to exceed litigation costs to make filing a claim worthwhile.

I personally have no faith in GPS surveys, or land surveys of any kind, as my one property line has been surveyed 3 times in the past 15 years and the corner markers vary as much as ten feet.  Which one, if any of them, is correct?  I beleive another survey would just add another random corner marker.

A property owner is very fortunate if they never have an issue with neighbors, and that goes beyond property boundaries.

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1 hour ago, Mathews XT Man said:

Fence lines do not fly here

That is probably true everywhere.

However, Wisconsin does have an adverse possession law.  In part: The legal doctrine known as "adverse possession" allows trespassers who openly inhabit and improve a piece of property to gain title to that property by meeting some specific conditions. Wisconsin's adverse possession laws require an individual to occupy property publicly for at least 10 years before the possibility of ownership.  There is much more to the law, with many conditions to be met if one files a claim, but someone can legally gain title to your land.

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The discussion between Dave and Martin is precisely why I would talk with an attorney in your state who handles land.  Maybe the attorney that closed your deal.  I do know that with the property beside us, we had a "back up offer" in on it for the same price the boy paid for it.  We had waited until the bank approved an amount and told us exactly how much they would lend us.  We came in less than 24 hours late.  Anyway we had an otherwise identical contract to the primary buyer, the realtor handling it if I remember right had right on the contract that the land should be surveyed that the fence lines were not the exact existing barriers.  Some people sign these things without reading them fully.  It was nice when we had our disagreement to be armed with the knowledge of knowing what the boy and his wife had agreed and signed on, he was pretty well dumbfounded when I asked him if he read what was in his contract.  You also should be able to get a copy of the neighboring property deeds from your local courthouse and find if yours matches.  

Also agree with Dave on the survey, wonder how accurate some of these surveys really are.  I measured off a reputable surveyor's pins on a line according to the deed.  The next pin measured with a 300 ft fiberglass tape measured in segments pulled along a straight line was off significantly from what I measured.  

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I'm not an Attorney, "But I did stay at a Holiday Inn once"....lol 

I had a neighbor farm clear land up to our fence and to this day is farming it...when we put the fence in the dozer operator did not put fence line in correct place. My Dad decided since he paid for that line to be dozed, he wasn't going to doze and pay for a second CORRECT line.  When I sold my farm land several years ago, the correct line was marked. We have always known where that line is. In the length of the 80, the fence was off 100 foot or so on far end. As far as that goes, they plant it and are feeding deer off it, so I more than get my share of deer fed off it anyways.

Anyway, getting back to GPS, I helped a Surveyor mark the lines of the Dick Rose Family property they had us log off.

http://discoverwisconsin.com/

after two days of clearing and marking on a 300 acre woodlot, 8 different corners. We made the last turn back to where we would tie in the last leg of the parcel. Surveyor said turn north and go about 240 feet and stop, I put up the mast...was a few more moves than what follows, but kinda went like this...step back about 10 feet...move to left a foot,  look down, there should be a survey pin right there....I kick away some leaves...THERE IT IS!!  DEAD NUTS!

 

Edited by Mathews XT Man

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One last post on this issue.

This is not so much about property line/fence issues as it is about the legal right for someone to lay claim to land that is not theirs.  In the original situation that Frank ran into, the neighbor had been using the land as if it were his for over 20 years and by law can file an adverse possession claim and could very well be given legal title to the property he has been using.  If he indeed does file a claim the boundary issue is in limbo until the claim is decided by either a judge or jury.

William, you on the other hand had nothing to worry about as far as that goes as the neighbor had just bought the property and would not have met any of the requirements to file an adverse possession claim.  What should have happened was for you and the neighbor to agree on a surveyor to come in and mark the line as described in the legal description of your properties and then to erect a new fence along said line.

Often on property boundary issues neighbors can not even agree on which surveyor to hire.  It is definitely less expensive to split the cost of a survey than for each to pay for separate surveys.  One thing is sure, old fence lines seldom match legal descriptions and when it comes to ironing it all out, the costs involved will probably exceed the value of the property in dispute. 

If you are purchasing property and there is a boundary issue that may be a problem in the future, I would recommend trying to get it resolved before handing over your money at closing.  Lawyers and litigation are expensive!

GPS accuracy using quality survey grade equipment should be accurate to within centimeters.  That is assuming reception from at least 8 satellites, which where I live may not be possible unless you are on top of a mountain and not in a valley.  Even a mapping grade gps should be accurate to with 2 to 3 feet.  The surveyor and the amount of money they invested in equipment can make a big difference.  Any surveying done more than 20 to 30 years ago is questionable.

As a property owner it is good to know your rights and the laws that could affect you.  Zoning is another big issue, along with water rights and mineral rights.  Be informed.

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Interesting discussions. The 87 year old guy (Eagleton) stated he had been paying taxes on the property marked by the old cattle fence. I checked at the court house and it is a lie. He has paid taxes on straight lines (not the crooked cattle fence).  He also says his deed states his property is described by the cattle fence. I doubt that is true as there is no historical record at the court house. We looked and everything at the court house is exactly described as the one I have. I took a video of the fence. I'd say at least 50% of the fence is on the ground, buried under the ground or washed away by the creeks and drainage's. There is no maintenance or cattle containment and there hasn't been for many years. If Eagleton ever wanted to put cattle on his property he would have to replace most of the fence so my argument would be to place it on the line or better yet 5 feet on his side.

I never had a lawyer involved and will not hire one. My property is filed at the court house, assessed and described as straight lines as the survey indicates. I'm going to be paying taxes on it as assessed. If Eagleton wants to steal this land by this adverse possession law he will just have to try to do so. The legal fees I would incur are not worth the land in dispute (less than an acre). In addition he will be also trying to steal land from my other neighbor (Dennis) as the fence crosses both of properties. Dennis has been there 15 years and is the only neighbor I've not had an issue with. I told him about it and he said the old man is trying to bully me and to call his bluff.

I received a letter from the north eastern neighbor yesterday. The one with the tree stands. Walker is his name and has only owned the 7 acres of land for 3 years. He stated he thought/thinks he owns considerable land on my side of the marked border. He said he is planning to build and had planned to put in a drive way on my land! He said he still thinks it's his land is going to do a walk through with the surveyor. He also wrote in this letter that his lawyer said for me NOT to remove the tree stands until he walks the borders with the surveyor. He also accused me of driving on his field to place the border markers (which is a false accusation). This is almost 4 weeks from the time I sent the original letter to him. I wrote him back and said I'd be happy to walk the borders again. It's not a matter of GPS coordinates but 2 feet of iron rod placed in the ground some 15 years ago. I can't imagine there is any type of error but if so I'd place his stands back and sue my realtor and the seller for selling me ground that wasn't theirs to sell. I'm trying to be nice with these neighbors but when I'm being falsely accused and lied to I loose all motivation to compromise.

I'll keep you all posted.

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Sounds like a bit of a headache Frank with a lot of folks either not knowing or trying to pull a fast one.  Hope you can get it resolved without too much trouble.  Some attorneys will answer questions or give advice over the phone without paying them anything.  Does not hurt to pick up a phone, all you lose is your time. 

As far as the taxes, not sure if you pay taxes on the land that it necessarily makes the land yours.  Our property assessor here has made changes to maps and we had paid based on 60 acres for nearly 20 years.  More recently our online property assessor map was adjusted to the disputed line the newest neighbor tried to push, while it is further past where the fence going onto the neighbor it is more onto us taking away nearly 5 acres.  The old tax map showed us going beyond the fence by more than 100 ft in most places.  Getting this surveyed will run over $4000 due to having to find the old pin at the originating point and go 3 sides around to get back to the line in question.  Neighbor does not want to pay it, I am not paying for it for him to try to make a claim.  Still hanging onto hopes we get another chance on the place beside us down the road.  

Good luck. 

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Update...

The property boundary markers I put up are all still in place. Haven't heard anything from Eagleton about the adverse possession.

Walker and I seem to be getting along a little better now. He sent a picture of his map and it looks the same as mine. He still wants to walk his property borders with the surveyor and that will be a few weeks.

In the mean time I have been morel hunting. The place is loaded! Biggest morels I've ever found. Also have seen numerous turkeys and jumped a hen at 3 steps from the nest pictured below. Those turkeys can scare the crap out of you. Hope the eggs make it! I've also found 2 other nests that something got into and destroyed/ate all the eggs.

 

Eggs.jpg

Morels.jpg

Morel 2.jpg

Morel 1.jpg

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