Iowa Court Rejects Claim of Boundary by Acquiescence

November 10, 2020 | Kitt Tovar

On November 4, 2020, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s judgment in a property dispute between a dairy farmer and his new neighbors. The court ruled that the dairy farmer failed to show that both landowners accepted a fence as the boundary line. The court also affirmed that a 1955 easement did not grant the neighbors the right to cross the dairy farmer’s land.

A dairy farmer acquired his property in 2012 from his father. In 2017, the plaintiffs purchased adjoining land west of the dairy farmer. A fence separated the properties, but was not on the boundary line, leaving approximately 1.3 acres of the neighbors’ land on the opposite side of the fence. After a survey, the neighbors filed a petition to determine the boundary line and establish whether a 1955 easement granted them the right to cross the dairy farmer’s land. The dairy farmer claimed the fence line created a boundary by acquiescence.

Boundary by Acquiescence

A boundary by acquiescence is created in Iowa when two adjoining landowners or the previous owners of the property recognize and acquiesce to a certain boundary line for 10 years. Iowa Code §§650.6, 650.14. A party seeking to establish a boundary other than a survey line must prove it by “clear” evidence.

In 2008, the previous owner of the neighbors’ land sent a letter to the dairy farmer’s father after realizing that he was farming 1.3 acres of their land. The letter granted a “license” to the farmer to continue to farm the land, but stated that the fence was merely a “barrier,” not the “boundary.” In reviewing the evidence, the court found that the letter was substantial evidence supporting the district court’s finding that the parties had not accepted the fence as the boundary line. As such, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that the fence did not establish a boundary by acquiescence.

Easement Access

In 1955, a previous owner of the dairy farmer’s land granted an easement to a third-party who owned the land north of both the dairy farmer and the neighbors. On appeal, the neighbors claimed that their property also benefited from the easement. The court rejected this argument and affirmed the district court's judgment. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that the neighbors had no right to enjoy the benefit of the easement because the easement had nothing to do with their land.