Q: I have a large parcel of land adjoining my father in law’s property that is also quite large. We recently had the property surveyed after owning the properties for years and found that the property line between us is in my favor and that he built a large barn with cement floor mostly on my property.
What are my options at this point? I can’t ask him to tear it down and start a family war. Do I have a limited amount of time in making a lasting decision? If his property is sold, or transferred to another family member what are my options at that point?
A: Since you both have large parcels of land, what’s the impact on your land in having the barn located where your father in law built it? You didn’t indicate in your letter that you had a problem with the location of the barn prior to performing the survey.
If the land that is used by the barn is small and you are trying to preserve the acreage you have, you and your father in law can swap some land to keep your acreages about the same while preserving the barn in its current location.
If the amount of land doesn’t have much value, you can deed your father-in-law the land that underlies the barn so that it will sit on land he owns.
There are a couple of options and configurations available to you and your father-in-law, as long as everybody is in agreement that something would and should be done to fix this issue.
And you’re smart to tackle the problem. You’re far better off solving the issue now, when everybody is getting along, than to risk have the problem surface years later, when this issue holds up the sale of the land.
If a land swap is not in the cards due to the costs, government regulations or other issues, you could have an attorney draft an easement agreement that allows the barn to remain where it is for the remainder of the barn’s useful life or a length of time that you and your father-in-law agree on.
The easement agreement might preserve his right to continue to use the barn where it is located until, perhaps, it falls down and needs to be rebuilt. At that time, the new barn can be built on land owned by your father-in-law.
If the barn outlasts your father-in-law, and the land is sold, the owners of the land will be on notice that the barn will have to come down and moved. The easement could allow the barn to remain there forever and that would be up to you and your father-in-law to decide.
Talk to a real estate attorney in your area to give you an idea of what it would take to complete a land swap or an easement agreement and the costs involved. You can even talk to the surveyor and ask him or her for any ideas as to how much land is involved with the barn and what he or she would suggest in terms of a land swap. You and your father-in-law may find that the land swap satisfies both of your goals and desires.
I’m sure there is an amicable way to work it out especially if the land is undeveloped and somewhat consistent throughout.
Let me know how it all works out.