Monuments Matter – Mutual Acquiescence And Recognition
Although perhaps unfamiliar with the dynamics of real property law, many in the general public often have an ingrained concept of adverse possession, a notion that the property that they have used for so long should belong to them no matter what a survey might show (discussed in a previous blog post here).
Along with this concept comes the less discussed, but no less strong feeling, that a monument (i.e. a fence or rockery) physically dividing property on the ground constitutes an enforceable boundary. Once again, the law provides some legal validation to our feelings – this time found in the doctrine of mutual recognition and acquiescence.
The doctrine of mutual recognition and acquiescence allows property owners with a shared boundary to adjust the legal boundary of their properties to conform to a real, physical line apparently adopted by the parties (even if adopted unwittingly by one party through their actions).
The quintessential example of this doctrine is a fence dividing two properties that does not actually sit on the recordboundary line. The fence may technically encroach onto one property, but depending on the existence of a variety of factors, a court in an action for quiet title could establish the encroaching fence as the legal property line of the respective parties.
Individuals seeking to establish mutual recognition and acquiescence must establish the following elements:
- The boundary line must be well defined and physically designated upon the ground by such things as monuments, roadways, and/or fences;
- The neighbors must have acted in a manner to manifest their occupancy of the respective property and accepted the designated line as the true boundary; and
- The parties’ acquiescence in the line must have existed for at least that period of time required to secure property by adverse possession (i.e. 10 years).
Neighbors can often run into boundary disputes, and in the Pacific Northwest, where even the slightest square footage shift can have a significant impact on property value, such disputes can become hotly contested. Beresford Booth frequently litigates and resolves boundary line issues, and we stand by ready to assist should you encounter such circumstances.