The Dangers of Adverse Possession: How Can You Prevent It?

Picture this: you’ve lived peacefully alongside your neighbor for as long as you can remember, and not much about your properties has changed. A simple fence separates you, with a small shed on your neighbor’s side. Specific life changes have now facilitated the need for you to move homes. However, after an initial assessment of your property and its boundaries, it’s found that your neighbor’s shed and fence have been encroaching on your property for all these years! In your attempt to rectify this issue and notify your neighbor of their encroachment, they come back to you with attorneys in tow. Your neighbor has chosen to enact adverse possession.

For those who’ve never heard of adverse possession, it’s more commonly known as “squatters’ rights.” And although adverse possession isn’t a commonly used law, it has the potential to create a significant headache for homeowners and property developers alike. Thankfully, there are ways you can avoid adverse possession with a little assistance from Austin Engineering’s survey teams.

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is the legal process by which an individual can claim ownership over otherwise neglected property. While adverse possession laws vary from state to state, the central concept remains the same. After a set amount of years have passed and specific requirements have been met, an individual has a legal right to claim the land they have been tending. While it can be challenging for individuals to meet all the requirements under adverse possession, it’s even more challenging to reverse a successful adverse possession claim.

Illinois’ Requirements for Adverse Possession

One of the most significant requirements for you to claim adverse possession is the length of time you’ve been using a piece of property. Per Illinois law, that statute is 20 years. In addition to encroaching or trespassing for 20 or more years, those wishing to enact adverse possession must prove the following:

  • Continuous – The adverse possessor must have maintained continuous possession of the property. For example, if a shed was on your property for ten years, a storm knocked it down, and a year later, your neighbor installed a new shed in the exact location, this would negate any claims the possessor might have.
  • Hostile – The possession of property infringes on the true owner’s rights. Where this may not be the case is if the possessor had at any time rented land or received permission from the owner to use it. If either is true, the possession of the land is not truly “adverse.”
  • Open and Notorious – The adverse possessor must not have attempted to hide their possession claim. If the possessor used the property in a manner that the actual owner would, without hiding property care, expansions, or occupation, they could claim adverse possession.
  • Actual – The property in question must be in the actual possession of the adverse possessor, not the true owner.
  • Exclusive – The adverse possessor must solely control the property themselves. If the possessor acts as the true owner in excluding others from possessing the land, the requirements for adverse possession can be met.

Can You Stop Adverse Possession?

While adverse possession claims can be frustrating to deal with, the good news is they are relatively easy to prevent! As long as you stay vigilant over your property’s boundaries, most of the requirements of adverse possession can be challenging to meet. Not to mention, Austin Engineering can assist when it comes to establishing or identifying your property’s boundaries. Here’s what you can do to prevent adverse possession:

  • Know Your Property Boundaries
    • This is the first and most crucial step to stopping potential adverse possession claims. Understanding your property’s boundaries ensures you can catch encroachment or trespassing before adverse possession can take effect. If needing an assessment of your property boundaries, Austin Engineering can provide quick and accurate land surveys. Furthermore, once you know your property boundaries, setting up signposts or a fence helps avoid accidental or purposeful encroachment of neighbors.
  • Grant or Deny Permission
    • A simple acknowledgment of your neighbor’s encroachment and your written permission for land usage is all it takes to stop adverse possession claims. Of course, this assumes you are okay with your neighbor using your land (and that you know they’re using it). Otherwise, notifying neighbors of their encroachment and requesting the issue be resolved is just as effective when negating possession claims. And if your neighbors refuse your request, legal action can be taken.
  • Use Your Land
    • It’s challenging for individuals to claim adverse possession of land if you’re actively using it. For residential property, land usage might not be a concern. However, property and land can go unused for commercial usage for long periods. In such cases, it’s easier for would-be possessors to claim the property was abandoned by its actual owner. Doing something as simple as setting up boundary markings or erecting a temporary structure is enough to prove you are using your land.

Don’t Let Adverse Possession Claims Get the Best of You

Adverse possession can be a tangled legal mess for property owners, land developers, and homeowners. Thankfully, some steps can be taken to negate adverse possession requirements. And with assistance from Austin Engineering’s survey team, you can be confident in your property’s established boundaries. To ask about our surveys or if you are interested in any of Austin Engineering’s other land development services, contact us today at 309-204-0694. Also, we are located at 311 SW Water St, Ste 215, Peoria, IL 61602.

Head-to-Head: Synthetic Vs. Natural Turf

As we look forward to next year and the hopeful comeback of sports across the country, we can bring up a debate that’s been putting sports fans, players and facilities at odds for years: synthetic or natural turf? The question of which turf is better may seem silly to those not as into sports, but for avid sports fans and participants, your field’s material makes all the difference. And while we’re not here today to convince you of one type of turf over the other, Austin Engineering is ready and willing to present both types of turfs and the pros and cons that go along with each. Afterward, it’s up to you to decide which you may prefer.

Synthetic Turf

In recent years, many fitness centers, high-school stadiums and professional sports centers have gotten away from natural turf and replaced their fields with synthetic grass. And while this turf option has a higher upfront price point, there’s a level of convenience that’s difficult to beat.

Pros

  • Resistant to Weather – When heavy rains and storms roll through town, it can make short work of natural turf, potentially waterlogging the field. However, synthetic turf does not have such issues. With no dirt under your feet, synthetic turf keeps the same consistency and is usable after the worst weather can throw at it.
  • Less Maintenance – Unlike natural turf, synthetic turf can’t grow. It’s fake, after all! Thus, there’s less maintenance that must go into the upkeep of a synthetic sports field. And because of this, your organization doesn’t have to waste time or money on the typical upkeep that goes into a sports field.
  • Stays in Shape – Football, soccer and other outdoor sports can sometimes get rough. And rough play can lead to your field getting torn up. However, with synthetic turf, this isn’t the case. We make synthetic turf to last, no matter how hard your players go.
  • Safety – The latest advancements in synthetic turf have led it to be safer than ever. In years past, synthetic turf would cause increased friction compared to natural turf when players fell or slid across it. However, the newest synthetic turf options are developed with a polypropylene surface. Thus, they minimize the risk of friction between a player’s skin and the field’s surface.

Cons

  • Heated Up – While synthetic turf can be used in near any climate or after most weather conditions, it can be difficult to play during a particularly sunny or hot day. Due to the materials used to make synthetic turf, it absorbs heat more than traditional turf. Thus, a synthetic field might be unusable under severe heat conditions.
  • Lack of Legacy – While not a specific problem with synthetic turf’s material or function, this type of field is still compared negatively when up against traditional turf. And in most instances, such treatment is only the result of a resistance to change. Many folks aren’t ready to adjust to an all-synthetic field over natural grass, even after seeing artificial turf’s benefits.
  • Limited Flexibility – While the lines painted on your synthetic turf don’t wear off easily, this is sometimes a detriment for a field that serves multiple sports. Compared to natural turf, it’s more difficult to remove and repaint lines when readjusting to a different game field. Thus, most synthetic fields are utilized for one sport and are rarely changed. In recent years, AECI has had success striping fields for multiple sports by using different colored lines for each sport.  Ask us about this possibility if you need a field to support multiple sports such as soccer, lacrosse and football.
  • Prices & Quality Vary – If considering synthetic grass for your field, you must keep in mind that not all artificial turfs are created equal. Some will lean more into the advantages of synthetic turf, while others might implement more chemicals to create, adding a risk of toxic runoff. Additionally, the price for synthetic turf, while never the same for each type, is always a bit higher than natural turf.

Natural Turf

It’s hard to argue with the traditional appeal of natural turf. And while a synthetic field has its benefits, natural grass is still one of the most popular choices for constructing or refinishing a sports field. Price and flexibility are also something to be desired when picking traditional.

Pros

  • Play Experience – The way players and equipment function with natural turf has been reported to be better than with the experience on synthetic turf. For example, players have found it easier to run across natural grass. Also, balls interact with it more consistently (bounce, ball roll, etc.). Overall, players feel more comfortable playing on natural turf.
  • Better for the Environment – Due to the nature of natural turf (being “of nature”), it is much better for the environment. For example, natural turf helps to maintain stormwater runoff better. While water on synthetic grass will run off to the field’s sides, natural grass will control said runoff by absorbing it into the soil. However, the Engineers at Austin are able to design synthetic fields with better stormwater control. So, if you need this at your facility, speak to one of the professionals at AECI.
  • Flexibility – A natural sports field can be much more flexible than anything synthetic. The truth is, manufacturers design synthetic turf to look a certain way, down to the painted lines on a field. Conversely, with natural turf, you can paint and wash off lines to your heart’s content. Furthermore, this allows your field to be more flexible if looking to have other sports played on it.
  • Cost – Compared to synthetic turf, natural turf is the best option when it comes to up-front price. If you’re looking to save money during the initial installation of new turf, natural turf is what you’ll be most content with.

Cons

  • Long-Term Maintenance and Associated Costs – If synthetic turf requires little maintenance, natural turf is the opposite. Watering, fertilizing, reapplying grass and more will be a constant when looking to maintain a natural field. And all of this upkeep does require an investment of time and money. Long term maintenance costs for a natural field will far outweigh any upfront savings realized. The question is pay more now (synthetic) or pay over time (natural).
  • Not as Durable – Alongside maintenance, you’ll find your field needing repairs more often than not. Sports games can get rough and can easily rip up the grass they’re playing on. And in preparation for every game after, you need to ensure you patch any “rough spots” to make players’ experience as smooth as possible.
  • At the Whims of Weather and Climate – The use of a natural field depends on previous weather conditions. Heavy rainfalls can flood a field and make it impossible to play on safely. Why so many sports games get pushed back is due to rain and its effect on your natural turf. Furthermore, in Illinois, where our seasons’ temperatures can vastly differ, grass goes dormant, and repairs or maintenance must wait till warmer weather.
  • Risk of Overuse – Back-to-back games on natural turf can put too much stress on your field. Overused turf has a harder time growing back and will come in patchy and rough. To properly take advantage of natural turf, you must let it rest between uses.

Team Synthetic or Team Natural?

The choice is yours, whether you wish to go with synthetic or natural turf. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and either may work better for the area or sports games you wish to support. But no matter your choice between the two, you can count on the experts at Austin Engineering to help install your preference. Our team has incredible experience with landscape design, and we can recommend what we believe would work best for you, based on your needs. So, whether you’re team synthetic or team turf, we can be sure Austin Engineering will always support your next landscaping project. To learn more about our company and the services we offer, call us today at 309-201-0694. Also, we are located at 311 Southwest Water Street, Ste 215, Peoria, IL 61602.

Putting a Plan in Place: The Urban Redevelopment Process

We’ve discussed plenty about urban design and development in previous blogs and what it entails for communities across the United States. However, there’s much more that goes into planning development before the actual implementation of a plan. And while the urban redevelopment process can become long and tedious at times, it considers multiple factors and always puts forward the best interests of those living in a targeted area for redevelopment. By understanding the process, you’ll know the work that goes into the property’s redevelopment and how the result affects you.

What is Urban Redevelopment?

Urban redevelopment (urban renewal) is the act of designating typically already urban areas to be rezoned and redeveloped from low-density to high-density property. Many cities have seen their urban redevelopment projects turn run-down housing into mixed-use or commercial development. And just as much as the local government gets involved with urban redevelopment, the local community votes to make decisions on the project going forward.

What is the Process?

A city’s government can’t “announce” plans for urban redevelopment on the fly. There’s extensive research that first takes place to determine whether an area is truly in need of redevelopment. Afterward, a plan is put forth, the community decides whether they approve of the plan presented, and the redevelopment can then begin.

Research

Before any agreements are made, and plans are considered, a thorough study of the land in question must be completed. Such a study will determine if an area qualifies for urban redevelopment by meeting criteria for blight, as defined by local or state governments. Blight, or urban decay, is measured by several factors of an area:

  • Disrepair of Property
  • Deindustrialization
  • Depopulation
  • Abandoned Property
  • Poverty Levels

If an area is at abnormally high levels for several or all these measurements, it can qualify for urban redevelopment.

Planning

Once the research is complete, the planning phase for urban redevelopment can begin. As the local government spearheads most redevelopment initiatives, a legal framework for an acceptable redevelopment amount must be established. Furthermore, funding for the redevelopment must be proposed, whether from taxpayer dollars, the city coffers, the state government, etc.

A complete urban redevelopment plan should also set the goals it wishes to achieve after the final project is complete. For example, some common goals may include:

  • Attracting more businesses or residents
  • Better utilizing space
  • Preserving areas of historical significance
  • Helping to reduce the poverty level of the area
  • Expanding transportation infrastructure
  • And more

Community Involvement

After an urban redevelopment plan is in place, the final thing to be done before it begins is to get a community’s input. As most plans hope to utilize financing through taxes, the residents of the area to be focused on are given a say in whether they want the plan to be amended or move forward. Often, in this time between planning and implementation, a redevelopment plan will go through multiple changes to best serve the community it will affect.

Another factor you might consider, as a resident of an area targeted by urban redevelopment, is what the city is offering you to allow them to redevelop your property. In most cases, if you live in or own property the city is interested in, they will offer you continued ownership in that property equal to your current stake. Or, you might be presented with an option of a buyout if continued ownership isn’t something you’re interested in. The point being, the city wants you and your area to prosper, and they will help you be a part of ongoing urban development or offer you a suitable amount if you wish not to be a part of the area’s renewal.

Urban Redevelopment at Work

The Greater Peoria area has undergone numerous urban redevelopment projects, both big and small. For example, you can consider the recent years spent investing in and updating the Riverfront District one of Peoria’s most significant urban redevelopments. This project was done on a larger scale and heavily affected residents, small businesses and industries alike. What was once an area of warehouses and distilleries is now a booming district full of apartments, restaurants, entertainment and more.

Like the Riverfront District, but done on a smaller scale, urban redevelopment contributed to the Peoria Civic Center building. Multiple blocks of land were leveled and rezoned to make room for the Civic Center. And to this day, the City of Peoria owns and maintains the Peoria Civic Center, making financial and expansion decisions through the Peoria City Council.

Contributing to the Urban Redevelopment Effort

Over the years, Austin Engineering has contributed to the urban redevelopment efforts undertaken throughout the Greater Peoria area. As a civil engineering company and professional land surveyors, we provide services both private landowners and municipalities take advantage of. And if considering an urban redevelopment project or any other land development project for yourself, Austin Engineering can provide the support you need. To learn more, call us today at 309-204-0694. Also, our Peoria office is located at 311 Southwest Water St, Ste 215, Peoria, IL 61602.

Better Prepare with a Flood Survey & Elevation Certificate

No one can predict when a natural disaster will strike. Sometimes, the most we can do is monitor the path of large storms and manage the damage in the aftermath. And for scenarios like this, insurance providers will often provide some sort of specific coverage. For example, if your property is at risk of flooding in severe weather, an insurance provider should offer flood insurance. However, you, unfortunately, may still not be fully covered. Without a proper assessment of your flood risk, your insurance might not offer enough coverage after an incident occurs. And this is where Austin Engineering comes in; by providing you with a flood survey and getting you an elevation certificate for your property, you can be sure your insurance supplies appropriate compensation in times of need.

What is an Elevation Certificate?

When we create elevation certificates, their purpose is to determine how vulnerable your property is to potential flood damage. We assess your risk by indicating the difference in elevation between the lowest floor of your property and the ground level. Typically, when you are located in an area that is already considered a high-risk flood zone, elevation certificates are necessary. However, if you are unsure about your flood risk, or your property is near a lake, stream, pond or other water sources, it’s suggested to invest in an elevation certificate as well.

Why Might You Want an Elevation Certificate?

If you know you’re paying for flood insurance, but have never had a flood survey performed or not acquired an elevation certificate, that’s a problem. This can mean you may be overpaying for your flood coverage. By getting an elevation certificate and providing it to your insurance company, they can more accurately assess what you should be paying for coverage.

Conversely, getting an elevation certificate can help you become exempt from flood insurance. By performing a flood survey, we can help you determine if your property is well above the base flood elevation (BFE). BFE is the key determining factor in assessing your flood risk. Thus, in proving your elevation exceeds the BFE, your insurance may no longer require you to pay for flood insurance.

Do You Need a Flood Survey?

In short, if you are confident you are nowhere near a flood zone, you won’t need a flood survey and elevation certificate. However, as previously mentioned, even if you’re close to a source of water, it would be in your best interest to have your land surveyed. At the very least, you should confirm whether you’re in a flood zone or not. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a quick and easy tool that tells you where your property may lie in terms of floodplains. Other reasons you may need a flood survey include:

  • If you are directly on the line of a floodplain
  • You are looking to put your home on the market
  • If you possess flood insurance via the National Flood Insurance Program
  • You are considering a basement renovation or expansion for your property
  • If you want to install measures to protect your property from flooding
  • You are in an area regularly affected by heavy rain and severe storms
  • If you want to know your risk of flooding

Where to Start

Not just anybody can help you with a flood survey. Check with your local floodplain manager or the previous owner of your home, first, to see if an elevation certificate already exists for your property. However, if you do not possess a certificate, only a state-licensed engineer or surveyor can guide you through the process of acquiring one. And, thankfully, Austin Engineering is exactly the surveyor that can assist. With two full-time survey crews on staff, we are equipped to handle your every survey need. Whether looking to protect your home or business from severe flooding, Austin Engineering possesses the tools and knowhow to get the job done.

If you have questions about the flood surveying process or wish to learn more about an elevation certificate, call Austin Engineering today at 309-228-9547. Also, our Peoria office is located at 311 SW Water St, Ste 215, Peoria, IL 61602.