Boundary by Acquiescence Established by Written Fence Agreement

January 23, 2012 | Erika Eckley

In this case, the court was asked to determine whether there was acquiescence in a previously existing fence line establishing a boundary between adjoining property owners who were bound by a written fence agreement. 

The parties were adjoining property owners. In 2001, the plaintiffs and the defendants’ parents, as adjoining landowners, entered into a written fence agreement, The agreement stated,  “A fence line presently exists on the boundary line between the parcels described above.” The fence agreement was drafted by the defendant, the property owner’s son-in-law and law partner. The agreement was filed with the county recorder. In 2006, the defendants purchased the land from their parents.

A few years later, Wal-Mart purchased property in the same quarter section. The defendants hired the Wal-Mart surveyors to survey their land and locate the property lines provided for in their deed. The survey revealed that the fence between the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ property was slightly east of the boundary. Upon discovering this, the defendants tore out the fence and intended to build a new fence on the surveyed land. The plaintiffs brought suit to enjoin the defendants from moving the previously existing fence line and claimed the property line was established by acquiescence as codified in Iowa Code § 650.6. They also requested a disinterested surveyor locate the disputed corners and boundaries as established by the fence.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment and provided evidence that the fence line had existed in its present location for more than 100 years. Further, the written fence agreement drafted by the defendant explicitly stated the existing fence line established the boundary between the properties. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment agreeing that the plaintiffs had clearly proved the elements of title by acquiescence in the boundary as established by the previously existing fence as agreed upon in the written terms of the fence agreement. The court also directed the parties to obtain a survey based upon the fence location.

The defendants appealed the district court decision and argued that a commission of one or more disinterested surveyors should have been appointed to determine the disputed corners and boundaries as stated in Iowa Code § 650.7. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment decision. The court also affirmed the district court’s decision not to appoint a commission because under Iowa law when there is proof of acquiescence in an existing property line, there are no fact issues to be resolved by a commission survey.  Roecker v. Nelson, No. 1-892/10-1378 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 19, 2012).