Iowa Court Finds Another Boundary by Acquiescence

October 25, 2019 | Kitt Tovar

On October 23, 2019, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that a boundary by acquiescence was established between two farms because the neighbors had treated the edge of a fenced corridor as the boundary line for more than ten years.

Background

Beginning in 1873, a farmer acquired three adjoining farms in Dallas County. The plaintiff,[i] a great grandson of the farmer, inherited one of those farms in 1992 and purchased another of the farms in 2005. The third farm, located between the two farms owned by the plaintiff, was sold to a third party in 2000. The two defendants in the present lawsuit purchased their separate parcels of land from the third party in 2000 and 2016, respectively.

The plaintiff’s farms border the defendants’ farms on the eastern edge. A fenced corridor, which the parties call a “jungle lane” separates the properties. At the north edge of the corridor, there is an area they called “the neck” which connects the north pasture to the south pasture. The dispute arose after one of the defendants obtained a survey in 2016. Although the plaintiff believed that the fence on the western side of the fenced corridor was the boundary line, the survey revealed that the legal boundary was between the two fences.

The plaintiff filed an action to quiet title, alleging a boundary by acquiescence along the western fence. The defendants counterclaimed, alleging a boundary by acquiescence along the eastern fence. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendants appealed.

Court Findings

The appellate court began by summarizing Iowa law regarding boundary by acquiescence:

Acquiescence exists when both parties acknowledge and treat the line as the boundary. When the acquiescence persists for ten years the line becomes the true boundary even though a survey may show otherwise and even though neither party intended to claim more than called for by his deed…Though the party seeking to establish a boundary other than a survey line must prove it by clear evidence, some overt act is not required in order  to  establish  acquiescence. Moreover, the mere denial of knowledge of the existence of a fence or some other marker demarcating a boundary, or of a claim of ownership thereto will not defeat the claim of acquiescence to the boundary if the circumstances are such that the landowner should be required to take notice thereof.

In this case, the evidence showed that the plaintiff’s family had used the fenced corridor and “the neck” to move cattle between properties for more than 100 years. The plaintiff’s ninety-seven-year-old mother testified that the disputed land had been used for this purpose throughout her lifetime and before. She estimated that the practice dated back to 1886. The court also found that the evidence showed that one of the defendants had acquiesced to the plaintiff’s use of the fenced corridor and the neck for 16 years.

In light of this evidence, the court affirmed the trial court’s finding of a boundary by acquiescence in favor of the plaintiff.

 

[i] This summary refers to one plaintiff (the heir of the farmer), but the plaintiff’s wife jointly owns some of the property at issue and was also a plaintiff in the action.