The cats have been roaming the neighborhood since they returned home from their trip to the San Juans where they visited their retired friend, an old Tom. I don’t know what went on up there, but I intend to find out. Ironically, you have moved in next door, with your Beagle, Bowser.
You call me to complain about the cats. “Your cats have been trespassing on my property, and they left their calling cards to prove it,” you say. The cats are listening to this on the speakerphone. They stare at the phone with offended, innocent eyes. I suspect that they are guilty. “Can you show me?” I ask. “Meet me at the hedge that separates our properties,” you say, curtly.
The cats and I walk over to the hedge that I planted twelve years ago. I planted the shrubs so that the base of each shrub was about two feet inside my property line, and I put bark chips about two feet on either side of the base. Over the years, grass and weeds had grown among the bark chips, but you can still see where the bark chips were. The shrubs had grown so that they extend about a foot and a half in each direction from the base. You have mowed the grass and weeds that protrude through the remaining six inches of bark chips on your side of the shrubs. You are standing with Bowser at your feet, on your side of the hedge, and point to cat droppings that are among the mowed grass and weeds that poke through the bark chip remnants.
“Look there,” you say, pointing to the evidence.
“That is on my property,” I say, and I explain the history of the shrubs to you.
“Well, I have a friend,” you say, “whose cousin is married to a lawyer in Toledo, Ohio,” you explain, “and she says that if a property owner places a fence or hedge near a boundary line to separate two properties, and if the separation barrier is in place for ten years or more, and if the other property owner maintains his side of the barrier to the exclusion of the owner during that time, then the barrier establishes a property line.”
“That only works,” I say, “if the party asserting ownership has a reasonable, good faith belief that the property belongs to him and acts in a manner that puts the other party on notice that the neighbor asserts ownership of the land. My spreading bark chips two feet from the base of the shrubs show that the land was mine and prevent you and the prior owners from having such a belief of ownership.”
The cats lift their heads and tails in approval and stare at Bowser, who has been unable to follow the conversation and has a blank look on his face. Bowser eats one of the pieces of evidence. The cats are appalled.
Allen Drescher has practice law in Ashland and Southern Oregon since 1973. His practice areas include real estate, business law, estate planning and elder law.
© Allen Drescher