Property lines and how to find them
If you are considering erecting a fence, building an addition, or even planting landscaping on your property, it is important that you locate your property line so you can avoid complications in the future. Of course, it is much easier to plan ahead by finding your property line before you start your project than it is to remove and relocate an improvement later.
It is not a good idea to simply assume that you know where your lot line is. For example, the fact that somebody has built a fence at some time in the past does not necessarily mean that the fence is on your lot line. In fact, a good neighbor will build a fence a small distance on his side of the line so as to avoid problems later, and many homeowners and contractors, licensed or not, make honest mistakes or take the most practical route when improving a property .
Because of these possible inaccuracies, it is most efficient to clearly locate your lot corners.
A map setting out your property dimensions, available from the county (or city), is helpful, but, by itself, will not allow you to physically locate the corners of your lot.
In many urban residential areas, a surveyor has already marked the corners of each property with a marker called a “survey monument”. There are many types of monuments, and a few of the more common types are discussed below.
At the front of your lot, at or near the front curb, you may see a thin brass disc, about the diameter of a nickel, anchored into the concrete with a nail. This is a good indication of the location of the line between you and your neighbor. (You may see additional monuments at your curb, as sometimes the same type of monument is installed at each change of curvature in the street.) And, in some areas, your property will have a “setback” of several feet from the curb, so your true lot line will be closer to your house than you thought.
At the rear of your lot, you may find an iron stake buried into the ground. A metal detector can be rented (or bought) and is useful if you have a good idea of where the corner of your lot is. With a little bit of luck and patience, and if the monument has not been removed, you will be able to unearth it. If you have a slope in your back yard, the monuments will usually be at the top of the slope. However, if your back yard slopes down to a street, your monuments may be at the bottom of the hill.
Remember that in California it is a misdemeanor to “maliciously remove” a monument.
If you are not able to locate your corner monuments, you may need to hire a surveyor. If necessary, the surveyor will take exact measurements from a known fixed monument located off of your property and mark your lot corners.
The information in this blog is general in nature. The law is constantly changing, and exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions, run rampant throughout the legal system. Every case is different. You are advised to contact an attorney with any questions you may have about your individual case.