Should we make a title insurance claim over a boundary dispute? How?

Title insurance companies should help resolve disputes about fundamental ownership issues like property lines.

Question

We live in a quiet rural town, with lots of land surrounded by streams and stone walls. Our neighbors, with whom we’ve otherwise always gotten along, had their attorney send us a letter claiming that their property line is closer to our house than we think it is. They have a surveyed plan that shows the property line where they say it is. But we have a surveyed plan that we had done for our closing that shows that we are right. This seems like it might be a problem for our title insurance company to deal with. If so, how do we file a claim with them?

Answer

It's worth taking a look at your title insurance policy. It may contain an exception for boundary disputes.

If not, however, your neighbor’s claim is the kind of issue that title insurance should cover. Title to your property is about what you own, for example, what are the dimensions of your property, and how you own it, for example, whether your ownership is subject to an easement entitling your neighbor to cross your land. A boundary dispute is more than a simple disagreement about, say, the height of a fence; it challenges the very dimensions of what you own and is thus the kind of claim against which title insurance serves as protection.

Because title problems tend to be technical and require highly specialized competence to understand and resolve, it often makes financial sense to bring your title company into the picture early, rather than try to litigate a title-related problem or otherwise try to resolve it yourself. There’s no additional cost to you – you’ve already paid the premium – and will save yourself a great deal of mental and emotional expense by handing off the problem to the title insurance company as soon as you think you have a title problem.

Fortunately, although title issues can seem esoteric and abstract, filing a claim with a title insurance company is usually straightforward. National title insurance firms have printed forms available for property owners and for lenders; the same forms are usually available online as well.

In any event, your claim should include your name, together with contact information, the legal description of your property (the description that is included in the deed), any perimeter or other surveys of the property, and a summary of the title issue. Include as much supporting documentation as you can muster, for example, a copy of the title insurance policy itself. If the title issue has been raised by someone else, for example, your abutter, and has now reached the point of litigation, make sure you include a copy of the complaint and other court filings with your documentation.

Claims can be filed by telephone, by mail, or online, depending on your title insurer.

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