When we move into a new home, we envision ourselves having weekend barbecues with our neighbors, knocking on their door when we need a cup of sugar, and having someone to collect our mail and feed our goldfish when we’re on vacation. This idyllic vision can sometimes give way to a reality that’s much different: a neighbor who’s loud, doesn’t take care of their property, or encroaches on yours. While we can’t do anything to help the first two problems, a qualified real estate attorney can do a lot to stop your neighbors from encroaching on your property.
What Is Encroachment?
“I have a neighbor encroaching on my property—what do I do?”
As real estate lawyers, we hear this question a lot. But first, let’s back up a little bit and address what encroachment is.
The most common story we hear about encroachment is when a neighbor builds a fence on your land. This fence property line encroachment often comes down to people putting in DIY fences that don’t follow the property line—not necessarily out of disregard for your property rights, but simply out of ignorance or ineptitude. Similarly, overgrown hedges, trees, and plants that cross the property line can also be considered encroachment.
Another type of encroachment is structural encroachment, which occurs when a property owner builds or adds onto an existing structure and it encroaches on the public domain, like sidewalks or roads.
Remedies for Encroachment
We strongly suggest taking a conservative approach, as it’s more likely to get results. If you’re aggressive right out of the gate, you’re bound to get a defensive reaction from your neighbor. Here are some steps to take.
- Talk to your neighbor about the issue. Approach them in a friendly manner. If they are unaware of the encroachment, they will likely be amenable to coming to an agreement. You may feel angry, and that’s understandable, but it’s important to give your neighbor the benefit of the doubt and operate on the assumption that they didn’t mean to encroach on your property. Before talking to your neighbor, have an idea in your head of what an appropriate remedy might be.
- Hire a surveyor if you don’t have a survey on hand. This can provide irrefutable evidence that your land was encroached upon. Ideally, your neighbor will offer to split the cost of a surveyor with you, but if not, it’s still worth paying the entire cost out-of-pocket in order to prove your case.
- Ask your neighbor to purchase the land from you. If they agree to this, hire a real estate attorney to draft an agreement and work on the property deed.
- If you’re still not getting anywhere, have an attorney send a property encroachment letter.
- Be prepared to take legal action if the above steps do not yield results.
Schedule an Appointment
If you have a conflict with a neighbor over your property lines, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced real estate attorney. Contact us at 512-505-0053 to book a consultation with one of our lawyers. When you need help settling property disputes, We Get It Done.