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Resolving Boundary Disputes - Are Land Surveys Science Or Art?

Neighbours can live side by side and in peace for years. But when one suddenly wants to put up a fence or cut down a hedge, conflict can easily ignite. Without clarity on property boundaries, simple bickering may eventually lead to costly litigation. Getting a land survey is one way to determine who owns what piece of real estate. But is a land survey always the end-all of a boundary dispute?

Expressing An "Opinion"

Only a licensed Ontario Land Surveyor can establish the boundaries on a piece of land. These professionals use specialized tools and mathematical calculations. But even then, the results of their survey are often referred to as an opinion. Why?

Time Can Blur The Lines

Over two centuries ago, when people began settling in Ontario in a major way, establishing boundaries wasn't as refined a process as it is now.

Some settlers might have conducted a survey, while others may have staked their claim using only natural markers on the land. Over time, these markers may have changed or even disappeared altogether due to environmental change, reconstruction or even deliberate efforts by unethical individuals. Even if boundaries were recorded, such documents may have been lost or destroyed.

Differences In Research And Measurements

Part of a land surveyor's job is conducting historical research to complement the physical work they do on the land. Information uncovered by one surveyor may be missed by another surveyor. Even if two surveyors access the same information, their interpretations of it may not be identical.

When two surveyors have differing opinions, they can often consolidate their findings and resolve the contradictions. If not, the dispute may need to escalate and be decided on in court or before a tribunal.

In many cases, though, boundary disputes can be resolved by engaging the services of a licensed land surveyor and consulting with a real estate lawyer on property rights. Investing in such services is a wise first step that may prevent the even costlier alternative of correcting mistakes or litigation. So, before you cut, build or do carry out some project on the outer limits of your property, get the facts straight.

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Merovitz Potechin LLP
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Ottawa, ON K1Z 8R1

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