Property Rights and Boundary Disputes


Our Nashville Real Estate Attorneys have handled many cases that involve boundary disputes regarding property. Boundary disputes not only involve property lines, but also adverse possession, easements, water-flow, and nuisance issues. If you have a property issue because of an adjacent to yours give us a call today.

Tennessee Adverse Possession Law

Adverse possession is a method of acquiring title to real property in Tennessee by possessing the property for 20 years. The time period can be as short as 7 years, however, the possession must be under a “color of title,” which means your deed or other transferring instrument contained an error of description granting you property the transferor had no authority to give. The possession for the prescriptive period in either instance must be from use which is actual, open and notorious, exclusive, adverse, and continuous.

So if the actual property owner gives you permission to possess the property, then you cannot claim the possession was adverse and notorious. Another issue is that of continuity. You must possess the property for a continual 20 year or 7 year period. In some cases the prescriptive period can “tacked” on to the next owner. So if a property owner builds a fence a few feet over the property line and 10 years lapse, then he sells the property, the new owner must only possess the property for 10 years to gain title to fenced area of the adjacent land.

Tennessee Trespassing Laws

One dispute that often comes up when owning property is dealing with trespassers. There are two types of trespassing: civil and criminal. A person commits criminal trespass if the person enters or remains on property, or any portion of property, without the consent of the owner. Consent may be inferred in the case of property that is used for commercial activity available to the general public or in the case of other property when the owner has communicated the owner’s intent that the property be open to the general public.

Civil trespass is just like criminal trespass, where a person is on an owner’s property without consent. The damages for a civil trespass can be:

  • Diminution of market value
  • Costs of restoration
  • Loss of Use of Property
  • Physical injury to the property
  • Emotional Distress, Discomfort and annoyance (if the trespass is a frequent occurrence)

One defense to trespassing is that the person had an easement to be on the property. An Easement is a non-possessory interest in land. It creates a right to use land possessed by someone else. The holder of the easement has the right to use a certain tract of land for a specific purpose, but does not have the right to possess and enjoy the tract of land.

There are a number of different ways to create an easement, but the most common are Express Easements and Necessity Easements. If an easement is express, then it means the property owner gave you permission to use the land. An easy example would be your neighbor tells you it is okay to walk across his lawn to get to a nearby stream instead of walking around.

An easement by necessity, it when a person has no other reasonable alternative but to use another person’s land. An example here would be if your property was surrounded by other properties and you had no road access. Then by necessity you would be allowed to drive on another person’s property for access.

The area of easements get complicated when dealing with commercial property and agreements such as mining rights, railroad tracks, water rights, and other access issues.

  • If you have an issue involving property rights and boundary disputes, give us a call so we can advise you as to the law in regards to your specific situation at 615-244-7708.