I have been surveying for a long time, and just recently became licensed in the State of Wisconsin.  I have seen alot and I have come across many surveyors in my time and some swear by fences, and some them believe that Subdivision/Section Lines bend or curve because of fences.  I know of other that will avoid fences for certain reasons.  How do you approach fences?

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Subject Tags: Fences, Lines, Property, Section, Subdivision

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I approach fences with the same amount of importance as other evidence of boundaries.  I show a relationship between fences and lines derived mathematically from yet other evidence such as deeds, prior surveys, and perpetuated locations of original corners of the United States Public Land Survey.

Generally speaking fences are not property lines.  This is based on the notion that fences can be placed anywhere including on your neighbors property.  If your neighbor doesn't know where his property lines are and a fence is erected over the original lines, just because the fence is placed where a neighbor wanted it (Could be dozens of reasons why) does not make it the "New Property Line".  Adverse possession is very difficult to prove in the state of Wisconsin.  If I have NOTHING else I will consider fences as the property.

 

Dont misunderstand me, I do recognize fences as a general rule whereas the propery line may be near by, just like a utility pedistal or power pole.  But in 25 years I have not come across many fences that ended up truly being the property line.

Believe it or not, although fences are not necessarily considered as the best available evidence of a property line, I most certainly have come across many fences that ended up truly being the property line.  It takes a bit of coordination between the surveyor, the surveyor's client, the attorneys involved and perhaps other parties, but, yes, fences can an do tend to be considered boundaries, especially when agreed upon.  I have written many descriptions for attorneys that provide a metes-and-bounds approach to this including area calculations and calls to the fence, itself.  It all depends on how things are negotiated.

I can see that being a factor on larger parcels of 3 (give or take) or more acres, but it really is unlikely on the smaller parcels.  If it comes down to negotiation it is because there isn't enough evidence to prove it one way or another, then I suppose the fence is all you got.  And you are negotiating because someone is probably in disagreeing with you or the neighbor.  My arguement is if I found lot corners on the line in question where the fence is and adjacent property corners found and all are verified with recorded information, why would I use a fence that can be literally put anywhere.  The fence becomes an encroachment and not a property line.

 

Remember we are suppose to follow in the foot steps of the earlier surveyors.  Following a fence that was an after thought or a side project isn't following in the footsteps of the prior surveyor.

Rick, I was hoping you were going there with this.  We are only surveyors with quasi-judicial powers in boundary determination.  We must abide by the laws that govern our practice at a National, State, and local level.  By no means would I ever consider a fence line a property line, since I can not determine lines of title, despite the language in Wisconsin Administrative Code A-E 7 that includes "property survey" as one of it's definitions.  I think it more proper to call it a boundary survey.  More on "encroachments" later.

In reading further above, insomuch as a Section Line may bend or curve with a fence, I see no reason for this at all.  A Section Line is a horizontal line between two Section Corners, generally speaking.

Fences are some strange enigmas.  They can make strong cases where a PL can be, or they throw all kinds of wrenches into the gears.  

 

I remember years ago back in Indiana, there was an LS who was stripped of his license because he called the fences as section lines without documentation and general due diligence.

 

They can throw you off quite a bit if you don't have monumentation.  My father-in-law, now deceased, was a farmer in NE Indiana.  He always told me that when you rebuild a fence you move it another foot or so further out.  The adjoiner usually has no clue that he's being encroached upon, and you end up with more tillable ground. 

 

Unless a description calls for a fenceline, and it can be verified that it is the fenceline per the description, I just show them occupational evidence.

Phil, that's some good advice.

Great subject and good discussion.

It depends very much on what the colloquial case law is. There are places where a fence of a certain age can be used to determine a boundary location. There are other places where such practice is prohibited.

I think we all use the best available evidence we can find. This could include a fence or other signs of possession to support the location of a record boundary. Where practice varies however is if a fence or possession alone can be used to determine a legal boundary.

Where I am at in Texas possession without a strict set of circumstances has little or nothing to do with determining a boundary of any kind (record or adverse alike).

My advice is to be familiar with case law for your area.

 

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