What to Do When Deeds Overlap


Property owners are often confronted with situations where deed descriptions for adjoining properties overlap, meaning the legal description of one parcel overlaps with the legal description of an adjoining parcel.  This presents a circumstance in which adjoining owners can each claim title to the same portion of property.  Our office has confronted this issue in recent transactions and there are several solutions.

Analyzing the strategies from the simplest to achieve to those that are most complex, the solutions are as follows:

If both parties are in agreement, the owners may: (1) execute correction deeds by which the overlapping portion is affirmatively deeded to one owner and the descriptions for the deeds in each owner’s chain of title are corrected; or (2) the owners may execute a boundary line agreement setting forth the agreed upon legal boundary line between the owners’ adjoining parcels. These solutions avoid litigation but require the filing of the correction deeds or boundary line agreement at the County Clerk’s office, obtaining new surveys and maps, and recertification of title insurance for both properties.

In the event that the parties cannot resolve the issue with correction deeds or a boundary line agreement, the owner that has been cultivating or utilizing the overlapping portion may assert a claim of adverse possession to obtain undisputed ownership over the disputed portion under Article 5 of the New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (“RPAPL”).  Article 5 requires that the asserting owner prove that it had continuous, exclusive, hostile, and open and notorious possession of the overlapping portion under a good faith claim of right for at least ten (10) years.   Alternatively, one of the owners could opt to pursue a quiet title action under Article 15 of the RPAPL, in which case the two owners would argue their respective claims to the property, after which the court would render a decision establishing conclusive title in one of the owners.  Either action may involve a potential claim against each owner’s title insurance policy.

If you find yourself in this circumstance, we are pleased to consult.

Posted by Michael Barone