Boundary Line Adjustments

January 30th, 2024 - Bryce Vanderyacht

Property boundaries play a crucial role in determining ownership and land use. However, situations may arise where property owners find it necessary to adjust their existing boundaries to better suit their needs. A process known as a Boundary Line Adjustment (“BLA”) does just what the name implies. A BLA occurs through a local city or county planning department instead of a Court, though it nevertheless involves legal considerations that require the expertise of a skilled law office.

I. What is a Boundary Line Adjustment? A Boundary Line Adjustment refers to the modification of property lines between two or more adjacent parcels of land. Property owners may seek this adjustment for various reasons, such as accommodating changes in land use, correcting erroneous legal descriptions, or resolving boundary disputes. A BLA must comply with local zoning regulations and legal requirements.

II. Common Reasons for Boundary Line Adjustments:

  1. Fix Non-conforming Lots: Existing lots may need to be enlarged, widened, or otherwise reconfigured through a BLA to suit a particular purpose, like building a house.
  2. Correct Faulty Legal Descriptions: Some lots, especially those in rural areas, may be based on a legal description drafted over a century ago. As properties change and surveying methods improve, the legal boundaries may no longer match the actual boundaries of the property. A BLA may be advisable to correct these discrepancies.
  3. Boundary Line Disputes: Resolving conflicts over property lines is a common reason for seeking a BLA. Legalizing and formalizing the adjustments can provide clarity and prevent future disputes. Since a BLA proceeds through a local permitting authority instead of a court, it is a common way for neighbors to resolve disputes in a cordial and cooperative manner.

III. Legal Procedures for Boundary Line Adjustments:

  1. Initial Assessment: Property owners should conduct a thorough assessment to determine the need for a BLA and ensure that all parties involved agree.
  2. Draft an Agreement. A BLA can be a time-consuming and expensive process, so it is always a good idea to memorialize any agreement at the onset. A Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) is a type of written agreement. In the world of Boundary Line Adjustments, an MOU is a common tool to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding what boundary lines are being adjusted, why they are being adjusted, who is paying for it, and other important considerations.
  3. Land Survey: A professional land surveyor is necessary to accurately survey the existing boundaries and propose adjustments based on legal and practical considerations. The surveyor is involved throughout the process, culminating in a final survey of the adjusted properties and new legal descriptions.
  4. Legal Documentation: Drafting legal documents, including a BLA application, is the critical step. This documentation must comply with local regulations and be filed with the appropriate authorities.
  5. Approval Process: The proposed BLA will undergo a review process, during which local planning departments and relevant authorities assess its compliance with zoning and land use regulations.
  6. Recordation: Once approved, the adjusted boundaries are recorded with the county recorder’s office, officially recognizing the changes in property lines.

IV. Drawbacks of Boundary Line Adjustments:

  1. Time & Cost. A BLA is a multi-step process involving several moving parts including other property owners, surveyors, and local government. The local planning department will charge a fee for the BLA application. For a potentially faster result, and to avoid the administrative fees, you may want to look into alternatives like Boundary Line Agreements.
  2. Disputes. A BLA requires communication, cooperation, and, most importantly, consent between landowners. This can be an emotional process as people are understandably protective of their land. Disputes may materialize during the BLA process which risk torpedoing the action and wasting the time and expense put in up to that point. It is always a good idea to reach a detailed understanding with other landowners and memorialize the understanding in writing.

V. Importance of Professional Legal Assistance: Navigating the complexities of a Boundary Line Adjustment requires legal expertise. A law office specializing in real estate law can provide invaluable assistance throughout the process. From representing clients in negotiations with adjoining property owners to drafting legal documents and applications, legal professionals ensure a smooth and legally compliant BLA, providing a solid foundation for future land use and ownership.



Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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