In real estate, encroachment refers to the violation of someone’s property rights by a neighbor or outside party. Encroachment occurs when one party intrudes upon the rights of someone else. In layman’s terms, encroachment occurs when someone builds a structure on your property or inhibits your property rights.
For instance, if you notice that your neighbor’s fence goes a few inches over the property line and is partially on your lot, this is a common example of an encroachment. However, encroachment can appear in many forms, so homeowners should know exactly where the property lines lie.
Encroachment isn’t always a serious problem. For instance, if the neighbor’s fence is just a few inches over the property line, it may be better to let it go than make a fuss. But, if the encroachment is severely impacting your life, it’s best to address it before the situation gets out of hand.
- Verify the Property Lines
- Talk With Your Neighbor
- Sell Your Land to Your Neighbor
- Take Your Neighbor to Court
1. Verify the Property Lines
The first step in dealing with property encroachment is to verify the property lines. It's important that you have all the facts so you don’t cause an issue for no reason. Ensure you verify the property lines and document any examples of encroachment before taking further action. Just because your realtor told you the property line extends to a certain point doesn’t mean it’s true.
There is often confusion about where your property starts and where your neighbors begin. So, check the public records and verify that the situation is encroachment and not just confusion about who owns what. But if you confirm that your neighbor is encroaching on your land, you can take a few steps to remedy the situation.
2. Talk With Your Neighbor
First, you should have a quick conversation with your neighbor to determine if they know the problem. Chances are that if you’re just discovering the issues, they’ve been in the dark about it as well.
Many encroachment issues can be solved with a simple conversation. For example, if a fence or other structure is on your property, they may agree to tear it down or figure out some solution that makes you both happy. Even if the encroachment was intentional, it’s better to try to remedy the situation by being amicable and not aggressive.
3. Sell Your Land to Your Neighbor
You may offer to sell the plot of land to your neighbor if you can’t reach an easy agreement. For example, say you realize a shed they built was technically halfway on your property. It may be easier to sell them the piece of land that the shed is sitting on if they don’t want to tear it down. This will make things easier if you eventually decide to sell the home because the new owner may not want their land to be encroached upon either. Many people will agree to remedy the conflict quickly if you offer a fair price.
4. Take Your Neighbor to Court
The final step you can take is to bring your neighbor to court. This should be the last option after you try to talk it out or sell them your land because it’s the most complex and time-consuming option. But you may have no choice if your neighbor refuses to work with you to fix the situation. The court will review the evidence and either grant a prescriptive easement or order your neighbor to remove their belongings from your property. So even if you do bring them to court, there are no guarantees they’ll act in your favor.
Keep in mind that encroachment is different from an easement. An easement occurs when someone is granted the right to use the property of another for a specified purpose.
For instance, if your property is blocking your neighbor from accessing a road or other important feature, the court may grant an easement so that your property ownership does not inhibit the natural enjoyment of their land.
An encroachment is when someone does not have express permission to access the ground but does so anyway. So, they’re essentially the polar opposite. Be sure to understand the difference and check for any easements if you suspect your neighbor is guilty of encroachment.
Yes, you can sell a house with an encroachment, but the seller needs to disclose the encroachment to potential buyers. If the encroachment is not disclosed and the buyer finds out later, it could lead to legal issues for the seller. A buyer considering purchasing a house with an encroachment will likely want to perform due diligence and have a property survey performed to determine the extent of the encroachment.
Encroachment is more common than you may think, although it’s often a problem that can be easily fixed. If you notice an instance of encroachment that inhibits your ability to enjoy your property in the highest capacity, you should address it as soon as possible and work with your neighbor to find a reasonable solution.