Michigan Boundary Disputes Establishing Property Lines by Acquiescence

On behalf of Howard Collens

Acquiescence to a property line can arise in three fact scenarios.

Doubt or dispute about where the boundary is between two parcels of land is a complex area of Michigan real estate law that involves many different legal theories. The doctrine of acquiescence is one important legal remedy that is extensively developed in Michigan cases involving uncertain boundaries.

Michigan law recognizes three kinds of acquiescence vis-à-vis boundary lines. The first is acquiescence for a statutory time period of at least 15 years, which means that when two adjoining landowners have treated a particular boundary as the real property line for at least that long, whether or not they have engaged in a dispute about the issue, a court can find that the boundary is at that place, even if it is different than that measured in a survey or described in a deed.

For example, acquiescence can be established by two adjoining landowners who have treated a fence, railing or wall as the true boundary for the requisite time period.

If previous owners of the same parcel also acquiesced to a particular boundary line, their period of acquiescence can be added to or “tacked” onto the current owners’ period of acquiescence to establish the required 15 years.

The second theory is acquiescence after a dispute and agreement, also called the doctrine of practical location. When adjoining property owners have a boundary line dispute, but resolve it by express or implied agreement that sets a particular line as the boundary, that line becomes the true boundary if they treat it as such over time. Practical location depends on the actions of the parties, not on whether the acquiescence lasts 15 years, so that length of time must not necessarily be reached under this theory.

Acquiescence arising from an intention to deed to a marked boundary is the final theory. When a boundary line has been treated by adjoining parties as the true line over a significant time period, when one of the involved parcels is deeded to another party, it is presumed that the grantor means to transfer the land from that recognized boundary line. The acquiesced line continues to be the one intended to be recognized in future transfers.

A Michigan boundary dispute may be resolved either by negotiation between the parties involved or in court such as in a lawsuit to quiet title. Acquiescence is one important legal theory such a plaintiff may assert, among other possible theories like adverse possession, easement by prescription, equitable estoppel, mutual mistake and others.

Anyone involved in a Michigan boundary dispute should speak with a real estate lawyer to understand the legal issues involved as well as potential legal remedies to the dispute.

With offices in Huntington Woods, the attorneys at Galloway and Collens, PLLC, represent individual and commercial clients in the Detroit metro area and throughout Southeast Michigan with boundary disputes and a wide variety of other real estate issues.

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