Quiet Title Or Die

Shortly after purchasing rights to this property my father and I did on-the-ground orienteering using a compass to find all of the surveyed corners demarcating it. Heavily forested and steeply sloped, it wasn’t easy but we finally found all ten corner markers set by the surveyor in their expected locations based on the survey description and associated property plat which had been produced prior to purchase of the property rights package, filed at the county courthouse and then used to file action to quiet the title. All adjacent landowners eventually signed off on the quiet title before the property purchase was finalized which ensured no further challenges to the title could be brought. This was key in successfully defending the property boundaries when an adjacent landowner foolishly decided to contest them almost two decades later.

One year before purchasing these property rights a company called Aerial Images (now PrecisionHawk) operating out of Raleigh, North Carolina began providing aerial and satellite earth imagery online at terraserver.com which I began utilizing to determine and mark the property perimeters, which are all straight lines. A first look at terraserver imagery for the south tract immediately struck me as odd because a few years before purchasing the tract it had been logged and the logged out portion’s long edges appeared to be very crooked. I remember immediately thinking “Well that can’t be right. Those edges should be straight!”, and so began an entertaining quest to remedy the situation.

This first terraserver image downloaded in 2001 provided initial evidence that helped expose severely misaligned perimeter fence constructed almost a century ago. At first I thought the aerial image must be flawed because no logging company worth its salt could make such an obvious mistake—a mistake which could cost them a fortune if adjacent landowners found out and demanded payment for timber illegally harvested from their property in error. But Aerial Images assured me the imagery was not flawed so I began walking the perimeters of the logged tract to figure out why this had happened.

A few transits up and down the long edges of the perimeter soon revealed how the logging company had simply followed the existing crooked fence lines instead of setting pols along the actual straight-line boundary when they were cutting trees.

Hiring a surveyor to set pols would have entailed extra time, labor and expense for the logging company which would have eaten into their profit margin, but nothing about their logging operation had changed anything at all regarding legal boundaries of the property. And as it turned out, almost ninety percent of their errant timber harvesting operation had been performed on the adjacent tract of property to the northeast instead of this property.

The bungling logging company owner showed up again a few years after I began living here and tried to trespass onto the property. I suspect he had finally understood his error and wanted to try to verify it on the ground, but I chased him off of the property and warned him not to trespass onto it again. I knew he had screwed up big time and didn’t care for him to know any more than he already did. It was going to be messy enough resolving the crooked fence issue with at least one adjacent landowner and I didn’t want the dumb ass complicating matters any further.

I expected that adjacent landowner would probably raise objections when I started marking pols and placing signage on the long edge of the property, being a member of a family with a poor reputation and dicey history. One of them had just been arrested for fraud and forgery that same year. I was pretty sure they would try to claim adverse possession of the property their crooked fence cut through and I wanted to be thoroughly prepared for a fight with them before opening that can of worms. When I finally did mark the perimeter along its proper course they indeed did object, lawyered up and the fight was on.

Fortunately they were stupendously ignorant and inept and their attack was predictably weak. The quiet title and survey guaranteed that outcome. They also exacerbated their wimpy position by trespassing multiple times and destroying private property–common bullying tactics more suited to schoolyard recess period. Capturing their illegal actions on video and a prompt call to state police who immediately responded and investigated the incidents put a stop to that, but they continued putting on an amusingly pathetic show trying to forcefully take possession of the property, eliciting plenty of laughs as they failed at every turn. By the time the battle was over and their attorney declared defeat, their crooked tails were neatly tucked between their weak legs as they retreated.

The logging company ultimately got away with their incompetent blunder by virtue of statute of limitations long since expired. The adjacent landowner negatively impacted by their mistake can't touch them now, their illegally harvested timber an unrecoverable loss. No one's fault but their own for not checking and monitoring the logging operation as it happened. But then they probably would not have caught the mistake either, also convinced the crooked old fence line was the property boundary.