How to Find the Property Lines of Your Rental Property
When you have a rental property, you only want to deal with your tenants. Hopefully, issues with neighbors won't ever come into play. Good tenants won't make too much noise or too much of a mess to create an issue, but there's one more thing that can drive a wedge between you and your rental property (and those who live next door) — property lines.
With different tenants moving in and out of your rental property, you should know where your property lines are to prevent any disputes as to what goes where. This not only includes your tenants' stuff but also upgrades you may want to do around the outside of the property.
Here are some options for how to find your property lines. You may even want to consider marking them before you begin renting. It can save you from so many headaches.
What are property lines?
Property lines are the legal boundaries of your property. They mark where your land ends and your neighbor's, on any side, begins.
It's important to never place anything on your property without knowing your property lines first. Accidentally putting something that's yours on someone else's land can lead to major disputes and even lawsuits. They could result in the costly removal of your latest addition or even having to pay your neighbor a fee for using their property.
Both large and small items can stretch over property lines, but what gets people in trouble most often are:
- Trees and other landscaping features
Knowing where your property lines are isn't just vital for when you, or your renter, want to add stuff to the property, it also keeps your neighbors from encroaching on your land. Ask your renter to alert you any time a next-door neighbor is about to start a major project in their back or side yard so you're able to verify they're staying within their own property lines before construction starts.
How to find your property lines
Whether you want to measure for yourself just so you know, or you need formal documentation, make sure you know your property lines before letting tenants move in. You can pass this information along to them as a reference, and hold on to it for yourself so it's easier to add property upgrades down the road.
These are some of the best ways to get the details you need to establish your rental property's boundaries.
1. Check a map
When you purchased your rental home, you received a ton of documents. Especially if you lived in the house at one point, you should have all your original paperwork in one place. Within that massive stack, there's a property map — also known as a plat map — that includes boundary lines and measurements.
You can also find this special map at the local clerk's or surveyor's offices. This is the most detailed way to gather property line information without having to remeasure your property.
2. Get professional help
To ensure where your property lines are, the best option is to hire a surveyor. This is a professional who will go out to your property, measure and map it. They'll even often mark your corners with stakes.
A surveyor can also walk the property with you after they're done with their work, taking you along your boundaries so you can visualize the edges of your property yourself. This can make it easier for you to describe the property lines to your renters, should they need that information.
3. Review your deed
While your deed may not give you exact boundaries, it will contain a description of where your property ends, including any identifying landmarks. Should you want to establish property lines, you can measure from these boundaries.
Your deed is a great starting point to get an idea of your rental property's boundaries, but it's not going to give you the definitive information you need, especially if you're building an amenity that goes right up to your property line. This is because the reference points mentioned in your deed can change over time. They may no longer be visible or may shift their location over the years. It's best to take these margins of error into account.
4. Measure the lines yourself
If you have enough basic information as to where the corners of your property are, you can find the lines yourself with a tape measure.
Starting from one corner, which should be a known point — probably from your deed — use a tape measure to get to the next point. This gives you a visual representation of the entire line on every side of your property.
You can set a marker in each corner, and maybe put a few flags in between to keep the lines straight.
5. Try an app
Believe it or not, there are actually apps out there that can help you find the property lines of your rental house. Some are free, but others require a subscription. Your options include:
- LandGlide — offering a seven-day, free trial, LandGlide uses GPS to find your location and then provides an interactive map where you can hover over properties for details while saving your favorites.
- MapRight — also using GPS to pinpoint your location MapRight then gives you parcel data for the nearby area. You can drop pins to hold your place and get information on water features, topography and more.
- Regrid — showing you information on a parcel map that pairs with where you're at, Regrid lets you save data on an area once you're there. A pro edition, with more bells and whistles, is available for a monthly charge.
Using one of these apps could be the ideal way to keep track of your property lines, especially if you have more than one rental property. You could even use these apps for the home you live in, as well.
6. Track down survey pins
Sometimes, when a property gets surveyed, the crew puts iron bars into the ground at the corners to mark boundaries. While the very tops of these pins should poke out of the ground, over time, they can get buried. If you've got a metal detector handy, and think these pins are on your property, you can go search for them.
This is a risky way to establish property lines though since there's no guarantee the pins are in their original spot. There's always a chance they accidentally got dug up at one point and buried again in the wrong spot. This happens sometimes when there's landscaping or utility work done on-site.
You also need to ask the utility company to come out and mark buried lines before you begin searching for any survey pins. This way you won't unintentionally hit a utility line and disrupt service to your rental home. There's no charge for this service, and it could save you from a serious headache.
Know your property inside and out
Being a landlord means keeping tabs on your rental property. As concerned as you are about the house itself, it's also a good idea to understand how to find your property lines so you can keep an eye on the land around the home, as well. It's just as much of a headache to deal with someone building a fence a little over your property line as it is to battle it out with unruly tenants. Keep disputes at a minimum by having all the facts first.