Tennessee Boundary Line Disputes – 20 Years of Property Tax Payments can Create Presumption of Legal Ownership of Land

Posted on Feb 16 2014 10:08PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

Analysis:  The recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision, John R. Conder v. William Salyers, No. W2012-00963-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013), discussed an important presumption that can be used in a boundary line dispute cases.  The Conder case involved a boundary line dispute where both sides submitted expert proof from surveyors that supported the respective positions of each party.  One of the important deciding factors in the case, however, was T.C.A. § 28-2-109 which provides a presumption of ownership when a person who has an interest in real estate pays the property taxes for greater than 20 years.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 28-2-109 provides as follows:


Any person holding any real estate or land of any kind, or any legal or equitable interest therein, who has paid, or who and those through whom such person claims have paid, the state and county taxes on the same for more then twenty (20) years continuously prior to the date when any question arises in any of the courts of this state concerning the same, and who has had or who and those through whom such person claims have had, such person's deed, conveyance, grant or other assurance of title recorded in the register's office of the county in which the land lies, for such period of more than twenty (20) years, shall be presumed prima facie to be the legal owner of such land.


In Conder, the Tennessee Court of Appeals noted that for a party to create a rebuttable presumption of ownership under T.C.A. § 28-2-109 the party must show that “(1) he or she has a legal or equitable interest in the property; and (2) that he or she has paid taxes on the disputed property to the exclusion of any other party for twenty years.”  This rebuttable presumption can be overcome by evidence submitted by the opposing party.  However, if this is not done after the burden shifts, then the rebuttable presumption will stand.  This presumption can be very helpful to win the day in a boundary line dispute case especially because there are usually dueling expert surveyors.


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TAGS: Real Estate
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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