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Using “acquiescence” to establish boundary lines


Disagreements between owners of neighboring properties often arise over boundary lines.

Boundary lines are usually established by getting a survey of the legal description contained in a deed. And a survey could actually prove that the line—which the owners treated as the true line—is different from the one described in the deed. If that is the case, the doctrine of acquiescence may be the answer

Under Michigan law, a new boundary line can be established if the property owners treated a boundary line as the property line for 15 years.

The Court of Appeals Michigan recently held in Fowle v. Dushane that a new survey is not necessary to show the boundary lines of an easement, and reaffirmed its previous decision that the boundary lines of the driveway were established by acquiescence.

The driveway easement in that case was created by a 1989 consent judgment between the previous owners. And in 2013, repairs of an underlying culvert uncovered the discrepancy between the boundaries of the easement according to the judgment and the boundaries acquiesced to for more than 20 years. This discovery led to one property owner blocking the easement with railroad ties and hazard cones. The other owner sued. Ultimately, the trial court sided with the other owner and ordered the immediate removal of all impediments to the use of the driveway as it was used before 2013.

The Fowle decision reminds us that the doctrine of acquiescence applies in equal force to the boundaries of a right-of-way (or easement) and that, sometimes, you can establish a new line based on historic use and treatment.



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