Why your deed isn’t proof that you own your land


When it comes to real property ownership, the deed is a vital document that serves as proof of your legal rights to a piece of land or a building. However, what many people don’t realize is that even with a clear deed in hand, there are situations where someone else may have a legitimate claim to your property. Boundary line encroachments are one of the common issues that can lead to conflicts, raising questions about who truly owns the land. In this article, we’ll discuss how, despite the legal description in your deed, someone else may have a valid claim to your real property.

Understanding the Deed

Before diving into the complexities of property ownership disputes, it’s essential to understand the significance of the deed. A deed is a legal document that officially transfers ownership of real property from one party to another. It typically contains a legal description of the property, outlining its boundaries, size, and location. However, deeds can sometimes have inaccuracies or conflicts with a neighbor’s deed, and it’s not uncommon for disputes to arise due to these discrepancies.

Boundary Line Encroachments

One of the most prevalent causes of property ownership disputes is boundary line encroachment. This occurs when a portion of one property extends beyond its legal boundaries and overlaps with an adjacent property. The encroachment might be a structure like a fence, a shed, or even part of a building. In some cases, it can be as subtle as a garden bed or trees planted just slightly over the boundary.

How Someone Else May Claim Ownership

  1. Adverse Possession: Adverse possession is a legal principle that allows an individual to acquire ownership of another’s property by openly, notoriously, and continuously occupying it for a specified period of time. The exact requirements for adverse possession vary by jurisdiction, but generally, the person claiming adverse possession must demonstrate that they have used the land without the owner’s permission, openly maintained the property, and done so consistently for a statutory period, often 10-20 years. If these conditions are met, the encroacher may gain legal title to the disputed land.

  2. Agreed Boundaries: Sometimes, landowners may enter into an agreement that amends their property boundaries, even if these amendments contradict the original legal descriptions in their deeds. These agreements should be documented through a written legal agreement, a boundary line agreement, or a court-approved stipulation. If the boundaries have been changed with consent, the new boundaries will typically prevail.

  3. Easements: An easement is a legal right to use or access someone else’s property for a specific purpose. If an easement is granted and recorded in the public records, it can give someone else a legal interest in your property, allowing them access or use in a certain way.

Resolving Deed Conflicts and Property Disputes

When conflicts arise due to deed discrepancies, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in real property law. Legal professionals can assist you in understanding your rights, the potential claims of others, and the appropriate steps to resolve the dispute. This may involve negotiations, boundary line adjustments, or litigation if necessary.


Your deed is your primary proof of property ownership, but it’s not immune to conflicts or disputes. Boundary line encroachments and other issues can lead to scenarios where someone else may have a legitimate claim to your real property. It’s crucial to remain vigilant and seek legal advice if you suspect any conflicts or discrepancies in your property’s legal description to protect your ownership rights and ensure a clear title to your real property.