Home > Uncategorized > Real Estate Boundary Disputes: What is Acquiescence?

Real Estate Boundary Disputes: What is Acquiescence?

 

I had posted an article in June that I drafted about Adverse Possession: https://jeshualaukalegalnews.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/squatters-rights-how-easy-is-it-to-acquire-property-by-adverse-possession/

The contested matters that I handle on a routine basis are business, real estate, and estate matters. All of these matters are contentious – real estate matters seem to take on a different level  of discord- simply put, people get real personal when their property is threatened – disputes can get ugly real fast.

A recent unpublished Court of Appeals decision came out providing some background of a closely related area of law to adverse possession, known as “acquiescence”. Andrews v. Alter, 305666, 2013 WL 3942389 (Mich. Ct. App. July 30, 2013).

I. FACTS:

 

The case was a property dispute between plaintiffs, Edward and Alan Andrews (“Brothers”) and defendant, Denise Alter (“Ms. Alter”), who own adjoining parcels of lakefront property on Pine Lake in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Brothers own Lot 32 of “Orchard Beach”.  Ms. Alter owns the southeasterly half of Lot 31.
In 1983, The Brothers’ father, who then owned Lot 32, granted a five-foot maintenance easement to Ms. Alter’s predecessors-in-interest, Joe Cabot and Ruth Cabot, to allow set-back for the construction of a house on Lot 31 at the border with Lot 32, in order to comply with West Bloomfield zoning laws.
The Brothers and Ms. Alter had been using and maintaining their property without an extensive property survey  to mark their respective boundary lines until Brothers had their property surveyed in 2008.
They had been using a line extending from an elevated metal pole in the seawall ion Pine Lake to a narrow point between the parties’ driveways at the road as the boundary line between the properties.
Once Brothers discovered that their actual property line was different than the line they had been using, Brothers sued.
 – again, back to my observation that people get particularly heated when Property is involved – ESPECIALLY lake front property.
The Trial Court found for Brothers. Ms. Alder appealed and claimed that the Trial Court should have found that the Brothers “acquiesced” to the boundary line.
The Court of Appeals agreed with Ms. Alder!
II. Law – ACQUIESCENCE – “the parties treated the boundary line like was the actual boundary line”

 “[t]he doctrine of acquiescence provides that, where adjoining property owners acquiesce to a boundary line for a period of at least fifteen years, that line becomes the actual boundary line.” West Mich. Dock & Market Corp v. Lakeland Investments, 210 Mich.App 505, 511; 534 NW2d 212 (1995).
“The underlying reason for the rule of acquiescence is the promotion of peaceful resolution of boundary disputes.Killips v. Mannisto, 244 Mich.App 256, 260; 624 NW2d 224 (2001).
“Unlike a claim based on adverse possession, an assertion of acquiescence does not require that the possession be hostile or without permission.” Id.“Although Michigan precedent has not defined an explicit set of elements necessary to satisfy the doctrine of acquiescence, case law has held that acquiescence is established when a preponderance of the evidence establishes that the parties treated a particular boundary line as the property line.” Mason v. City of Menominee, 282 Mich.App 525, 529–530; 766 NW2d 888 (2009). Andrews v. Alter, 305666, 2013 WL 3942389 (Mich. Ct. App. July 30, 2013)

Like proving adverse possession, acquiescence is a heavily factually based inquiry. Unlike Acquiescence, there is only required a “preponderance of the evidence (lesser standard than “cogent proof”), and no hostility between the parties need be shown – stated otherwise, a party does not to show the actions taken were “without permission.”

III. LESSON

There are legal consequences for the way you treat your property and hold it out to the public. Just like there are legal ramifications for the manner in which you hold your property, i.e. Joint tenancy, tenants with full rights of survivorship.

 

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