If you want to build a fence, take down a tree, put up a shed, or anything else on your property, you’ll need to determine where your property lines are.
What is a property line?
A property line (sometimes known as a “boundary line”) is the legal boundary of your property that separates it from your neighbor’s land. It’s where your property begins and where it ends.
Why are property lines important?
There are four main reasons it’s important to know the precise location of property lines:
- If you plan to buy a property, mortgage lenders and title insurance companies typically require a current survey specifying property lines.
- If you plan to sell a property, you’ll need to know the size and boundaries of the parcel to correctly describe and price it.
- If you want to build a fence, home addition, pool, shed, landscaping or anything else on your property, property lines will dictate where they can go. Not only will the property lines dictate whether your plans infringe on your neighbor’s land, there are also local rules and regulations set forth by a town or municipality as to how far from a property line something must be. Infringe upon these rules or build over your property line, and you’ll likely face hefty fines, frustrated neighbors, and a large bill to remove or relocate whatever you’ve added.
- The inverse is also true: If your neighbor wants to add a structure or landscape to their property, knowing where their property ends and yours begins will ensure they don’t encroach on your property lines.
How do I determine my property lines?
When it comes to finding out the exact location of your property lines, there are four main ways to do so:
- Search the perimeter of your property for stakes or pins: When land is surveyed, a land surveyor will “stake the property.” This involves placing markers along property lines and at corners to indicate exactly where the edges of the property are. If pins are used to stake the perimeter, they’re findable via metal detector since they’re buried steel bars with marked caps.
- Check your property’s deed: This legal document is a written description of a property’s exact property lines.
- Consult a plat map: A plat map is a diagram that shows boundary lines, elevations, structures, and bodies of water within your county, city/town, or neighborhood. It’s drawn to scale to illustrate plots of land and property boundaries. This document should be provided when you purchase a property, but if you don’t have it, check with your local tax accessor or land record office.
- Hire a licensed property surveyor: For a fee, a professional property surveyor will research your property's history, measure and mark exact property lines, and create a property line survey.
How do I comply with property line rules?
Before digging or building, reach out to your local building or zoning department. You’ll need to find out whether you must first apply for a building permit and get permission from your neighbors. You’ll also discover how far structures and plantings need to be from property lines. If you live in a development, don’t forget to check with your homeowner’s association (HOA).
Though exact guidelines will depend on your municipality and HOA, here are some general rules:
- Fence: Fences should be two-to-eight inches away from your property line. If fences are built on the property line, you and your neighbor jointly handle their care and maintenance.
- Shed: Sheds need to be more than five feet from the rear property line and two feet from the side property line. They cannot be built in the front yard.
- Detached garage: If a detached garage will face the front of your home, it can be five to 15 feet from your front property line and five feet from side property lines.
- New home: Often, a new home will need to be a minimum of five to 10 feet from the property line.
How do I make changes to my property lines?
To make changes to a property line, you’ll need to hire a real estate attorney to handle boundary line adjustments or agreements. For instance, you may decide to cede (or sell) part of your property to a neighbor, in which case property lines need to be officially, legally updated.