Lot Line Dispute Could Lead To Claim Against Title Company
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM #LAW 715
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A home buyer is informed by their
new neighbor that the buyers lot is not as big as they were lead to believe.
Ilyce explains why this situation is more complex than one may think and how
it could lead to a claim against the title company.
Q: I am a Realtor who recently sold a home in Hinsdale, Illinois. The seller
provided a survey which indicated that my buyer was purchasing a 50’ x
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The next door neighbor (who happens to be a real estate attorney) has informed
my client that his survey indicates that he owns 52 feet and that my client’s
lot is only 48 feet wide. He has put his house on the market and has threatened
a lawsuit if my clients do not agree to his survey.
What should they do? A local real estate attorney told them the sellers of
the home my buyers purchased did not have deep enough pockets to sue them. Does
title insurance cover this?
A: This is a situation where everyone involved could be right – or at
least they justifiably think they are right.
The neighbor says he has 52 feet of frontage on his lot and your client says
he has 50 feet. Your client can go back to his surveyor and discuss the situation
and determine if their original measurements are accurate.
In some old subdivisions, there can be differences between what was measured
a hundred or so years ago and what is measured today. While two feet is a large
number, if a mistake was made many years ago on the subdivision plat, the plat
could have indicated that your client’s lot was 50 feet wide when in actuality
the lot was only 48 feet wide.
Your client needs to research the issue further to determine what is at stake
and how best to proceed. If your client’s lot is 50 feet wide but the
neighbor has a claim against the lot for two feet, that boundary dispute could
be a subject to a claim against the title company.
When you buy a property and obtain an owner’s title insurance policy,
it protects the buyer of the property against problems in the title to the property.
Some title problems may not be covered and some are always excluded by title
For example, in some states, title companies do not insure boundary issues.
The title company does insure that the land you have purchased is yours, but
not if there are claims against your title due to a boundary dispute.
Have your client take a look at his title insurance policy to see if survey
and boundary issues have been excluded. If they have not been excluded, your
client may be able to tender the defense of the claim by the neighbor to the
title company and have them either compensate your client for the loss or, if
the matter is litigated, to defend the title against the neighbor’s claim.
Before it gets to that, your client needs to do more digging. If nothing else,
he should get a copy of the neighbor’s survey and determine if the neighbor’s
surveyor made a mistake. If both lots are listed as having a 50 foot frontage
on the street on the plat of subdivision and the plat was done within the last
50 years, it may be the neighbor surveyor was mistaken about the width of the
If the neighbor’s surveyor was mistaken, the only way the neighbor could
prove that he owns the extra two feet would be to claim that he acquired them
through a legal concept called adverse possession. The neighbor would have to
prove that he has claimed to own it for a great length of time, that he used
it to the exclusion of the neighbor, that he paid taxes on what he claimed he
owned, among other issues. With a boundary dispute of this type, it might be
hard for the neighbor to prevail and get actual “ownership” of the
Your client should sit down with his attorney (making sure the attorney has
sufficient knowledge about real estate law in Illinois) and walk through the
situation. Once your client has more information, he can determine how to proceed.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com