Resolved, Again: The Border between North & South Carolina

Although we may have thought the border between North and South Carolina was firmly established when the Province of Carolina was divided in 1729, the truth is that the line thought of as the border between the two new colonies contained numerous and substantial errors in its measurements.  These discrepancies in the border have now been resolved through cooperation of the two states by a comprehensive re-survey of the North Carolina/South Carolina boundary line. 

The first survey of the border was conducted in 1735, but a number of re-surveys of portions of the boundary have taken place since then. The border we have come to know was surveyed, and agreed to, by the two states in 1815.  So, why re-survey the border now?  

In the 1990s, Duke Energy offered to sell or donate tracts of land that straddled the border.  The problem was that the two states could not determine the correct location of the border, and effective conveyance of the affected properties requires specific identification of the affected properties within modern (or at least definitive) survey standards.  In order to avoid the costly litigation that the states had seen in previous border disputes with Georgia and Tennessee, the two states agreed to cooperate to determine the exact location of the border.     

The resulting border clarification has resulted in some properties that were formerly in South Carolina now being located in North Carolina, and vice versa.  While the large, sparsely populated tracts in the western areas that created the need for a re-survey have generated little attention, differences between the two states’ tax (and fireworks) policies have led to well-publicized concerns.  Both states have enacted legislation to address the veritable laundry list of issues raised by the border shift, including income taxation, motor vehicle taxation and user fees, sales and use taxes, motor vehicle licensing and registration, school attendance, and in-state university tuition.  

With regard to real estate, in South Carolina, the Clerk of Court or Register of Deeds is required to file a document known as a Notice of Boundary Clarification for each parcel of land in their particular county affected by the border shift.  The Notice of Boundary Clarification is required to be filed by January 1, 2017.  In North Carolina, the North Carolina Geodetic Survey is to record the final survey of the confirmed boundary in each border county, as well as a Notice of Affected Parcel for each impacted property.

Needless to say, these statutes create new and unusual requirements for the employees of the affected Clerks of Court and Registers of Deeds, and it will be incumbent upon the parties to real estate transactions and their counsel to ensure that these new requirements are met and their transactions properly completed.  If you seek to buy or sell land affected by the border shift, a title examination by attorneys in both North and South Carolina should be undertaken.  New individual parcel surveys may be recommended or required, and separate title insurance policies for split parcels may be necessary.  Parties should engage experienced attorneys who can address these issues and ensure all requirements are met.  With experienced attorneys in both North Carolina and South Carolina, Hutchens Law Firm can represent you on both sides of the border.     

Co-authored by attorneys Alan Stewart and John S. Kay on November 14, 2016