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REAL ESTATE 9: Can parties acquiesce to a new property boundary line?

This case involves a dispute regarding the use of two driveways. One of the driveways, composed of gravel, originally ran partially on plaintiffs’ property and partially on defendants’ property. The other driveway, which is paved, runs along defendants’ east property line with neighbor and third-party defendant, then crosses over defendants’ property near their house, and finally ends at plaintiffs’ property line.

Before defendants purchased the property in 2012, defendant visited the property, introduced himself to plaintiff, and stated that defendants intended to purchase the property.  Plaintiff explained to defendant that he owned the gravel driveway, having given up their right to use the paved driveway as a right of way.  Defendant told Plaintiff that they would see about that claim. When defendants moved in, they began using the gravel driveway.

During 2014, defendants blocked plaintiffs’ access to the paved driveway with barrels and parked campers. They also put mounds of dirt along the gravel driveway. Defendants later cut off plaintiffs’ use of the gravel driveway with a large log. Consequently, plaintiffs lacked access to their house via both driveways.

The trial court held a five-day bench trial at which plaintiffs, two current neighbors, one former neighbor, and two licensed surveyors testified. Plaintiffs testified that they had lived at their property for 28 years and enjoyed maintaining and using the gravel driveway uninterrupted without any problems with their neighbors until defendants moved next door. Plaintiffs’ neighbor to the west, who lived for there for 32 years, testified regarding the neighbors’ historical use of the driveways. He understood that plaintiffs had the right to use both driveways and confirmed that Plaintiff maintained the gravel driveway year-round for many years. He also saw the barriers that defendants had erected and placed, preventing others from using both of the driveways.

Under Michigan law, parties may acquiesce to a new property boundary line.  Acquiescence is established when a preponderance of the evidence establishes that the parties treated a particular boundary line as the property line.

Unlike adverse possession, a claim of acquiescence does not require that possession of the land was hostile or without permission.

In this case, plaintiffs established by a preponderance of the evidence that the previous owners and plaintiffs had agreed that plaintiffs had the exclusive right to use the gravel driveway. The previous owners acquiesced to the changed boundary line and plaintiffs’ exclusive use of the gravel driveway for over two decades. Multiple witnesses testified that plaintiffs used the gravel driveway and maintained it as their own for over two decades.

The trial court, therefore, did not err in finding that plaintiffs owned the gravel driveway by acquiescence, where they had possessed it, used it, and maintained it for more than the 15-year statutory period, and where, during that timeframe, the previous owners had treated the boundary line between their property and plaintiffs as running along the east side of the gravel driveway. Further, the trial court did not err in relying on plaintiffs’ unrebutted testimony that the previous owners sought permission to use the gravel driveway and did not treat that property as their own.

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? Are you seeking an efficient and effective resolution to a property litigation matter? If you are facing a residential or commercial real estate, seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate litigation attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth.

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