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Are There Legal Remedies For Property Encroachment?

Boundary lines are typically clearly defined in surveyor’s assessments held on file. However, in the real world, boundaries might start to be defined by landmarks such as trees, shrubs or the edge of a driveway. If you are concerned about boundary lines or property encroachment, it is crucial that you take steps to fully understand the dispute.

Most often, property encroachments refer to boundary disputes between neighbors. Neighboring properties can either be commercial or residential, but the crucial element is always to clearly define the actual property lines. Encroachment can mean different things in different situations. For example, a residential neighbor might build a fence or a deck that crosses the official boundary line into your property. A commercial neighbor might erect marketing elements, signage or a new parking lot that encroaches onto your property. While the first reaction might be frustration – or even anger – it is wise to remember there are legal remedies to this type of dispute.

Typically, there are three ways that an encroachment can be handled – usually with the guidance of an experienced attorney.

  • Negotiation: In most situations, the first step should be to discuss the situation with your neighbor in a calm, professional manner. It might be a simple misunderstanding of the property boundaries that can be alleviated by removing the new structure. If the new structure cannot be removed, you might decide to give your neighbor written permission to use that portion of your property for this purpose. Having the agreement in writing can prevent a later claim of adverse possession.
  • Selling property: If your neighbor is unable or unwilling to remove the encroachment, but is otherwise open to resolving the matter, you might be able to reach an agreement based on selling a portion of your property. Selling the section of land currently occupied by the encroachment becomes a win-win solution as you receive money for an unused portion of your property and your neighbor gets to use the land as he or she sees fit.
  • Going to court: If a beneficial resolution cannot be found, the matter must be resolved in court. This can be a lengthy, costly process but the result is legally binding and will likely end all further boundary disputes.

It is not uncommon for neighbors to explore all three options before the situation is resolved. We recommend discussing your situation with an experienced real estate lawyer to ensure your best interests are protected no matter which solution works best for you.

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