Regardless of how friendly you and your neighbors are, property lines exist. The best-case scenario is that a property line dispute is just an annoying frustration that takes away from you enjoying your home or property. Worst case scenario, a property line or boundary dispute can cause property loss and sometimes physical conflict between neighbors. The best and most effective way to avoid a property line dispute with your neighbor altogether is to understand how property boundaries and property lines work. The direction you take for resolution will depend on your dispute. (For example, if you believe your neighbor is crossing the boundary line of your property, you have the right to take legal action to resolve the encroachment.)
What is a Property Line Encroachment?
You may be wondering, what exactly is a property line encroachment? According to the law, there are three categories of encroachments:
- Encroachment by Physical Penetration: A fence, wall, hedge, or other structure that physically intrudes onto the land of another constitutes an encroachment by physical penetration.
- Encroachment by Use or Occupancy: Intentionally using- or occupying- land belonging to another constitutes encroachment by use or occupancy. For example, building a fence on your neighbor’s land without his or her permission is encroachment by use or occupancy.
- Encroachment by Prescription: An encroachment that has existed for a specific period of time can become the legitimate property of the encroaching owner, under the law of "prescription of easement".
Understanding the different types of encroachment of property and boundary lines will help guide you in the right direction to find a solution to your dispute and identify your property rights.
Suspicion of a Boundary Line Encroachment - What Should You do?
Now that you know what the three types of encroachment are you can look at your own situation with clearer vision. You do believe there to be a boundary line encroachment, what should you do? The first and most important thing to do is to gather information. You should begin by taking pictures of your property from above, if possible.
You may also want to take measurements of your property, and make note of any intrusions (like a fence or shed) that might give you some clues about where your neighbor's property line goes. For more exact measurements you will need to hire a licensed land surveyor to perform a land survey that will identify and mark your actual boundary lines. This will clearly identify where the land in question lies. You could then talk to your neighbor about the ownership rights of the land in dispute, but you shouldn't do this until you have gathered as much information as possible.
Is an Amicable Solution Possible?
A property line dispute can happen when one neighbor is encroaching on another's property line, or when one neighbor thinks a boundary line is farther away than the other neighbor. In either case, the parties involved must decide if they want to just let it go or if they want to take legal action.
If the issue is fairly clear-cut, there may not be much cause for dispute. In this case, both parties can decide to forgo the unnecessary expenses of legal action and come to a mutual agreement. But if there's some uncertainty as to where the actual property line lies, you can expect the property owner to begin legal action. When the lines begin to blur, your only resolution may be with a legal solution. If this is the case in your situation, you will need to retain a law firm that specializes in disputes over property and is well versed in property line laws.
Whether it is an encroachment by physical penetration, encroachment by use or occupancy, or encroachment by prescription, it is always to your advantage to consult a qualified attorney for legal advice in reference to the piece of land in question. Your attorney will know the type of infringement that has occurred with the land at issue. This will determine whether your property dispute will be able to be resolved with the assistance of a mediator or whether a trial is in your future.
Can a Home be Sold With a Property Line Dispute?
You may be wondering if your home can be sold with a property line dispute, well that all depends on the severity and type of encroachment. When selling a home the property owner must complete a disclosure form or statement. On this form, the landowner must relay if they know of any issues with the property line.
Now depending on the type of encroachment, red flags could start flying for the buyer. It is possible that a bush or some shrubs that "cross the line" are not a big concern to the buyer, but if it is a solid structure such as a fence or shed, or a situation such as the property is only accessible via a private road that crosses a neighbor's property that could very well be a reason for the buyer to back out of the deal. So, while a home/property can be sold with a boundary dispute, it would definitely be in the best interest of the seller to resolve those issues before listing their property for sale.
Regardless of the type of encroachment you believe to be occurring, or property line dispute you may be having, I can help guide you and answer your legal questions. I am dedicated to serving my clients with the individual excellent care that you deserve. Contact me today to help with your property line dispute.