Has a neighbor recently put up a new fence on their property? Do you get the feeling that some of that fence is actually on part of your land? When a neighbor erects any kind of structure, whether a fence, a wall, or a billboard, this is a clear infringement of your rights. If this has recently occurred, you may be dealing with a legal issue known as property encroachment. You have every right to confer with your neighbor over any concerns that you may have over this issue. You also have the right to take up the matter with your local zoning board or to pursue it in court if necessary.
When Can You Be Sure That Your Property is Being Encroached On?
There are a number of scenarios under which you may consider yourself to be the victim of encroachment. These may include, but will not be limited to, the following:
- A fence that extends into your yard.
- A wall that extends into your property.
- An extension to a neighbor's house that cuts into your property.
- A political sign or billboard that lies partly on your property.
- A shed or barn that extends on to your property.
- Special fencing for animals that extends onto your property.
Why is It So Important to Know Exactly What Your Boundaries Are?
Before you take steps of any kind, it's an excellent idea to know exactly where your boundaries are so that you don't make a serious mistake that could land you in serious legal trouble. You don't want to threaten a lawsuit or any sort of personal action against your neighbor. You also don't want to make wild or extravagant claims concerning the size and value of your property, as these may backfire on you. The more you know about the exact extent of your property, the better prepared you will be to come to a friendly and productive resolution to the issue.
What Can You Do If You Are the Victim of Encroachment?
If you feel that your property has been encroached on, there are a number of remedies that you can have recourse to. As noted above, the first recommended action will be to have a talk with your neighbor in order to see if you can resolve the issue without having to bring in the zoning board or legal system.
If a sit down with your neighbor doesn't lead to an acceptable agreement, there are other ways to resolve the issue. For example, you may consider to lease or sell the area of your property that their fence or other structure infringes on. If you really wish to alter or remove the structure, you can put in an offer to lease or purchase the area that it lies on.
What Should You Expect if the Issue Ends Up in Court?
If all else fails and the infringement dispute ends up in court, there are a number of things that you should be prepared for. First of all, you will need solid legal proof that you really do own the property in question. Without this proof, you will have no legal ground to stand on. You may end up being compelled to pay damages to your neighbor.
Next, you will need to prove that your neighbor really is using the land in an improper fashion and that any structures that they have placed upon the area need to be removed. If you win the case, you can have the court force your neighbor to remove the structure.
However, should you lose, your neighbor may win the outright title to the area. They could also get the court to grant them a prescriptive easement. This means that the court allows them to use the area in question for the purpose of keeping the structure in place. For these reasons, it's an excellent idea to be sure of what you're getting into before you file your claim in court.