The Forestry Forum

General Forestry => General Board => Topic started by: hydeoutman on November 06, 2005, 10:19:41 PM

Title: Stumped?
Post by: hydeoutman on November 06, 2005, 10:19:41 PM
We have a problem, our south line 1320'  has a fence installed by my Uncle about 1955. which does not run on the true property line. The fence is pretty much delapadated, however there was never a survey done. By measuring from our north property line, which does have a Survey stake we find that our South line is about 100 feet further South. Good news: however, our neighbor has logged his forty and 100 feet of ours. Anybody have any ideas on what steps I should take?  I was thinking of having the property survey, but that cost is around $5,000.00. I will confront the neighbor shortly but want my options open. The neighbor does not have any monatary wealth other than 160 acres of farmland no forest anymore.  I know we have courts, but would like to avoid if possible. Any Ideas. What is the going rate for lost timber? There were many 14 to 18 inch cedars and mostly spruce and balsam.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Jeff on November 06, 2005, 10:24:08 PM
Hopefully Ron Scott will have a good answer. I am not sure when He will be back. Soon I think. He has been up in your part of Michigan this last week .
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: bitternut on November 06, 2005, 10:28:03 PM
I would think that without a proper survey you would just be another person with an opinion. I can't imagine you can do anything without one.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Corley5 on November 06, 2005, 10:52:40 PM
You are getting into adverse possesion territory here.  If the existing fence even though it was in disrepair had been the agreed upon property line for the last fifty years and if the neighbor had treated the land as his own and maintained it as such you probably won't have much luck to the point that in the eyes of the court the land is considered his now.  Talk to an attorney.  I had something similar go on here a few goes ago.  The land bordering mine was purchased and surveyed.  The new survey showed that the line was in my field 20+ feet from where the old fence is.  I talked to an attorney and he told me not to worry about it that the old fence had been the agreed upon line for ever basically and we had records of improvements we had made including repairing the fence and farming right up to the fence.  On his advice I put some new posts in the old fence row to show that it was still being maintained, continue to cut hay right up to the fence and treat the land as mine which by law it is.  Judges don't want to get involved in the status quo of neighborhoods.  If however your neighbor new that the fence wasn't the line then things are different but getting him to admit that he knew it maybe a problem.  Is your uncle still alive to testify about the fence not being accurate.  Did your neighbor use the land as pasture, cut firewood there etc.?  Lots of things can come into play in an adverse possesion case and it can be very costly.   
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Sprucegum on November 06, 2005, 10:56:22 PM
If he logged up to an old fence line that was presumed to be the property line in the past - and in his mind is still the property line....

Even if you get a survey and prove where the line should be from now on, those trees are already gone.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer but I have seen how some laws work.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: pigman on November 06, 2005, 11:15:41 PM
Laws in different states vary. In Ky who has possessed the land the last 20 years is the most important factor. Corley 5 has menitioned some of the ways land can be possessed. Other factors in land ownership are the survey and the "intent" of the original property division.  A disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express one time. ;)
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: crtreedude on November 07, 2005, 06:25:45 AM
I don't know a lot about this in the USA - but I know a lot here in Costa Rica. Whoever maintains the land, owns the land. Period. In fact, in 3 months (no, that is not a typo) a squatter can start to acquire rights. This is because Costa Rica doesn't want rich people tying up the land in just a few people's hands. If you don't use it, you lose it.

More than a few foreignors have found out the hard way about this. It will probably get worse since a lot of people are wanting to buy Costa Rica property as speculation land - and of course people know no one is watching the land and so move onto it. The people come back in a year - and they don't have a property anymore.

Also, you have to deal with the fact that the neighbor was acting in good faith (if this is true). If the return you are looking at isn't worth $5,000 dollars - it might not be worth ruining your relationship with the neighbor too.

I am not a lawyer - and I am happy I am not one! But, I would just leave it alone and count it a lesson learned to make sure to mark the property. I would talk to him about where you believe the line is - but you had better expect to have a survey - if someone were to tell me that the line was where I never thought it was, I would would definitely expect a survey.

Given the fact the survey is was supposed to reflect the actual layout of the land, and since the fence is there - is it possible the survey or figures you are using is wrong? Trust me, surveyors make mistakes.

I would go really slow on this and don't assume anything.

Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: hydeoutman on November 07, 2005, 05:33:15 PM
I thought I would clear up a few more questions that came up. The property has not been maintained by either owner. It's just wooded forest that has an old fence line running throught it. The east corner of the line is surveyed and is correct. The west has 91 feet different which tapers to a pie shape to the east corner.
As far as being neighborly, that idea went out the window a few years back when she would'nt sell me an extension to my property to build a house. I would have been able to have a walkout basement instead of my crawl. I offered her a good amount of money. I am glad now, I would have bought my own property.

Next step is to find a survey that won't cost so much.

What's the going rate for cedar at 14" -18", poplar, spruce and balsam?
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Riles on November 07, 2005, 05:45:24 PM
While you're looking for a surveyor, look for a consulting forester too. If you want reasonably accurate numbers, you need someone to back 'em in. He'll need to count and measure the stumps and get a statistical average of the nearby trees.

Then look up lawyers, cause I think I see where this is headed.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Frank_Pender on November 07, 2005, 06:54:06 PM
Here in Oregon, the value is three times for taking some other persons trees.  It took me 16 years to get the adverse possession law changed in Oregon.   Anyone could claim you land by simply stating they walked on it, walked their dog, and hunted on it for 10 years.  It cost me $4,000 to save five acres of heavly timbered land.  (NOTE:  The guy that was trying to take the five acres was/is a state farm insurance agent, his two sons were growing pot on my land and his older son kept trying to run my wife off of the road until he discovered I was driving the car one evening.   He still give me the French bird  signal whenever he sees me around town.)  You can have your lawyer enter this case such that the neighbor  has to pay the court costs and the lawyer fees.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Jeff on November 07, 2005, 06:58:00 PM
Its a shame, that if one feels that they have had timber stolen, and they must get a survey to help prove it, that the survey should not be paid for in part by the pther party as well.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: Ron Wenrich on November 07, 2005, 07:08:12 PM
Adverse possession laws vary from state to state.  In our state, mowing the grass does not show possession.  Cutting the trees is viewed as mowing the grass.  Assuming fencerows to be property lines is largely dependent on past practices in your area.  Its just poor policy.

You might want to talk to your neighbor.  You might be able to keep it out of the courts.  A lot depends on how "good" of neighbors you've been for the past several  years.  You might be able to show him where the line is at.  If you can come up with an agreement, so much the better.

If you can't, then you'll need that expensive survey.  Without a survey, a court won't even look at it.  Its your word against his.

You will also need a stump count and measurement.  Consulting forester will give you the most reliable appraisal.  The stumps will need to be counted, and measured.  The forester can then figure out diameters, and throw an estimate of tree height.  With that info, they can get a volume and then an appraisal number. 

Did your neighbor have a logger do this or a forester?  Who designated the cut line?  If the logger decided to go to the fence row, then he has some liability.  If the neighbor said to go to the fence row, then he has the liability. 

If this was not a bid sale, there is a possibility that the appraised value will be higher than what the neighbor received. 
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: jon12345 on November 07, 2005, 07:12:05 PM
Since the fence was previously accepted as the real property line, you are probably at a loss.  However, there are formulas that can use the stump height, and basal area of the stump to estimate the amount of wood that was 'stolen'.
Title: Re: Stumped?
Post by: hydeoutman on November 07, 2005, 08:32:17 PM
Did your neighbor have a logger do this or a forester? Who designated the cut line? If the logger decided to go to the fence row, then he has some liability. If the neighbor said to go to the fence row, then he has the liability.

The neighbors down the road did the logging. This was there first logging job. I am not sure who designated the cut line. I told the loggers that I was not sure where the correct fence line might be, just that this was not correct.