Iowa Court Says Common Ownership Does Not Extinguish Boundary by Acquiescence

June 27, 2023 | Kitt Tovar Jensen

A fence ran slightly north of the boundary line between two parcels of land. After the landowner of the northern parcel filed a petition for quiet title, the neighbor counterclaimed, alleging that a new boundary line was established through boundary by acquiescence. The district court agreed with the neighbor and ruled that a boundary by acquiescence had been established. In making its ruling, the court held that the simultaneous ownership of both parcels for three years by the person who sold the property to the landowner did not extinguish the pre-existing boundary by acquiescence.

Boundary by Acquiescence

If adjoining landowners recognize and acquiesce to a marked boundary for 10 years, it becomes the new boundary line. Iowa Code § 650.12. At trial, a person who owned the northern property from 1990 to 2014 testified that she always believed the fence to be the boundary line. The current owner of the neighboring property testified that when he bought the property, he was told that the fence was the boundary line and he “had no reason not the believe [the previous owner].” Additionally, multiple neighbors corroborated the neighbor’s testimony that the fence line had been recognized as the boundary for over 10 years.

Boundary By Acquiescence Extinguished

The northern landowner also argued that even if a boundary by acquiescence had existed, it was extinguished when the person who sold him the property in 2018 owned both parcels for around three years. Although other jurisdictions have concluded that common ownership extinguishes a boundary by acquiescence, the Court of Appeals declined to follow suit. See Salazar v. Terry, 911 P.2d 1086, 1089 (Colo. 1996).

Iowa Code § 650.14 provides that once a boundary acquiescence is established, it is permanent. Additionally, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that common ownership does not reset the boundary line to the survey line. O’Callaghan v. Whisenand, 93 N.W. 579, 579 (Iowa 1903). Thus, the Court of Appeals affirmed that the neighbor had established a boundary by acquiescence.