Conflicts over property lines between neighboring homeowners are common and often emotionally intense. For real estate attorneys, helping such clients find their way out of “crisis mode” is often the first step toward finding a positive resolution.

Boundary disputes between business owners, while sometimes less fraught than residential disputes, are also quite common. Keys to getting beyond them are to try to think of them as “just business” and assume that workable solutions do exist.

Legal access to spaces

Conflicts having to do with access may be the most common commercial real estate dispute. When one business’s customers or deliveries use an entrance, driveway, alley or other means of access that another business believes it owns or controls, conflict is almost inevitable.

The first step in resolving the conflict is usually to locate and properly interpret the relevant leases, contracts and/or deeds to see who truly does have legal access to the space. Often, the answer surprises one or even both sides in the dispute.

Resolving property line encroachment

It’s not unusual for outbuildings, additions, driveways or other improvements to cross a property line. An obvious solution is to force the encroaching party to demolish the improvement and restore the property to its former glory. Such a fight can be long and expensive, often vastly outweighing the value of the turf in question.

Better solutions may include negotiating a “boundary by practical location” in which both parties acknowledge the true owner of the space but to agree to behave otherwise. Alternately, the encroacher can buy the land in question. Or the encroached can own and control the part of the improvement that is on their property. As Finance and Commerce points out, there are other variations to consider, each with their financial, legal and emotional costs and benefits.

Georgia, like all other states, has strict statutes of limitations for bringing such disputes, so waiting for a more convenient time could result in the loss of the ability to find a solution at all.