Huck v. Ken's House LLC, 20210122-CA

CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah
Writing for the CourtHARRIS, Judge
Citation511 P.3d 1220
Parties Rainer HUCK, Appellant, v. KEN'S HOUSE LLC, Appellee.
Docket Number20210122-CA
Decision Date12 May 2022

511 P.3d 1220

Rainer HUCK, Appellant,
KEN'S HOUSE LLC, Appellee.

No. 20210122-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah.

Filed May 12, 2022

W. Matthew Schiffgen, Attorney for Appellant

Eric P. Lee and Matthew J. Pugh, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Ryan D. Tenney concurred.


HARRIS, Judge:

511 P.3d 1222

¶1 This case involves a dispute between neighbors over ownership of a narrow strip of land along the border between their respective properties. Ken's House LLC (Ken's House) is the record owner of the strip of land; Rainer Huck claims to have acquired the strip through operation of the legal doctrine known as boundary by acquiescence. After a bench trial, the trial court sided with Ken's House and rejected Huck's claims of quiet title and trespass. Huck now appeals, and we affirm.


¶2 In April 2012, Huck bought a parcel of real property (the Huck Property) located on one of the "avenues" in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City. On the parcel was an existing building containing several apartments. From approximately 1972 to 2012, the Huck Property was controlled—through various business entities—by one family. When Huck's predecessors in interest acquired the Huck Property, a portion of the property's western boundary was marked by a fence—described as a "pigwire fence"—running in a north-south direction. The fence was located approximately nine feet to the west of the apartment building. The wire fence did not run the entire length of the property, however; the southwestern corner of the Huck Property was covered in overgrown trees and brush, and no fence existed in this area. Over the years, the fence fell into a state of disrepair, with its wire being described as "trampled down" to the point where there remained only mere "remnants" of a fence.

¶3 The Huck Property sits next to a corner lot, and the property's western boundary abuts three separate parcels that front one of the perpendicular "streets" in the Avenues neighborhood. In 2016, Ken's House acquired the corner lot (the Ken's House Property), which abuts the southwestern portion of the Huck Property. Shortly after acquiring the property, Ken's House set about making renovations, including construction of a detached two-car garage.

¶4 As part of those renovations, Ken's House commissioned a survey, which indicated that the actual boundary between the Huck Property and its neighbors to the west was approximately two-and-a-half feet farther east than where the fence remnants were located. Part of the new garage was to be built within the two-and-a-half-foot wide strip of land—along the Ken's House–Huck property boundary—located between the surveyed property line and the line indicated by the fence remnants (the Disputed Strip). Prior to beginning construction of the garage, Ken's House received permission from city planners for the garage to be built within seven-and-a-half feet of the apartment building on the Huck Property, which was an exception to the city's otherwise-applicable ten-foot setback requirement. As part of the approval process, a public meeting was held to discuss, among other things, the proposed setback variance, and notice of that meeting was sent to residents of the neighborhood. Huck did not attend this meeting, and he did not lodge any objection—on any basis, whether oral or written—to Ken's House receiving a variance to the setback requirement, including any objection on the basis that he owned the Disputed Strip.2 After receiving approval for the variance, Ken's

511 P.3d 1223

House completed construction of the garage, in the location it anticipated, near the end of 2018.

¶5 Huck subsequently sued Ken's House, seeking to quiet title, in his favor, to the Disputed Strip through operation of boundary by acquiescence; he also asserted that the contractors building the garage had trespassed on his land during construction. The case proceeded to a two-day bench trial.

¶6 At trial, Huck called various witnesses, including an individual (Property Manager) who had helped manage and maintain the apartment building prior to (and, in a limited capacity, after) Huck's purchase of the Huck Property. Property Manager testified that, when he first began working on the Huck Property in 1972, the wire fence was already in place, and he offered his belief that the land east of the fence, including the Disputed Strip, was part of the Huck Property. Property Manager also testified that, although the fence had certainly been "trampled down" over the years, Huck's predecessors had never attempted to remove the fence, and that some "T-posts" from the fence had remained in place until Ken's House removed them during construction of the garage. Property Manager testified that he had used the area west of the apartment complex—but not necessarily the Disputed Strip—for various maintenance-related tasks, including installing air conditioning units, repairing electrical conduits, and trimming the weeds that grew in that area. There was some discussion of Property Manager storing ladders near the old fence, but he ultimately acknowledged that those items were actually stored well to the north of the Ken's House Property, and therefore not within the Disputed Strip. Property Manager testified of no other use of the Disputed Strip.

¶7 Huck also called a member of the family (Predecessor) that controlled the Huck Property prior to Huck's acquisition. Predecessor testified that, during the times she visited the Huck Property (approximately four times a year), she remembered seeing "remnants of fencing" along the western portion of the property, and that although the fence was "inline" and obviously there, it had been trampled and beat down toward the ground and was in a state of disrepair. Predecessor additionally testified that the area west of the apartment complex never had any sort of "manicured lawn" or sprinkler lines.

¶8 Huck himself also took the stand, testifying that when he bought the Huck Property in 2012, the wire fence was intact, and that he understood that fence to represent the boundary between the Huck Property and the Ken's House Property. Huck also testified that his tenants sometimes used the area west of the apartment building to walk their pets, and that he used the area—but not necessarily the Disputed Strip—to access the side of the apartment building for maintenance-related tasks. Huck acknowledged, however, that "the main use" of the area west of the apartment building was for safety and maintenance and to comply with the city's ten-foot setback requirement.

¶9 Ken's House then called various witnesses, including the contractor...

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