Mastroianni v. Wercinski

158 N.H. 380, 965 A.2d 1139, 2009 N.H. LEXIS 20

 

RULE:

Subjective belief of the property line does not prevent the existence of the required claim of right.

FACTS:

The Petitioners, the Mastroiannis acquired a parcel of residential real estate in 1998, with their predecessor in title acquiring the property in 1975. The respondents, the Wercinskis, acquired an abutting parcel, with their predecessor having the property since 1979. The parties and their predecessors all thought a stone wall marked the boundary between the two properties, but the boundary was actually east of the stone wall. The Mastroiannis and their predecessors in title had mowed grass, planted flowers, and otherwise treated the property as their own. When the Wercinskis discovered the actual boundary in 2006, they relocated the stone wall and removed the flower bed to reclaim the land. The Mastroiannis petitioned to quiet title, asserting title by adverse possession. The trial court found for the Wercinskis because although the Mastroiannis and their predecessors had exclusive and continuous use for 20 years, their possession was not notorious because both parties thought that’s where the boundary line was.

ISSUE:

Does the parties’ subjective belief of the property line prevent an adverse possession claim?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The Court reverses the trial court’s determination. The trial court found that the Wercinskis' predecessor in title was aware of the possession of the disputed property. It follows then that this is a case of actual notice and, absent some form of concealment, the element of notoriety is met.

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