Where Your Yard Ends & Your Neighbor's Begins

When neighbors have disputes about property lines, it is often unclear where one property ends and the other begins, especially when property owners have held the property for a long period of time.  In the event of a dispute, Iowa Code section 650 provides a procedure for resolution.  Under section 650, an interested party files a special action with the district court seeking determination of the disputed boundaries.  The Court appoints a commission composed of licensed land surveyors who make findings of fact.  The parties then have an opportunity to challenge the commission's findings before the district court, and the ruling of the district court can be appealed.  Of course, the parties can always agree to the boundaries without the Court's intervention.

Can they do that? An Intro to Inverse Condemnation

As property owners, sometimes we are faced with situations where the government (state, county, municipal, etc.) does something that permanently affects the way we enjoy our property. If the property owner is not compensated for this, the legal method through which the property owner can receive compensation is called "inverse condemnation." See Kingsway Cathedral v. Iowa Department of Transportation, 711 N.W.2d 6 (Iowa 2006). Iowa courts have reviewed a wide array of inverse condemnation situations, including: property that consistently floods following road construction projects, ordinances that prohibit nuisance lawsuits for odors emanating from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and zoning actions affecting the use of a property. If successful, the property owner is entitled to the difference in market value of the property before and after the government's action.