When you own a home or you are preparing to purchase a home, you do not want anyone to “encroach” on your property or have their personal property on your property. But boundary issues happen, and they can be ugly. There is a term for this battle of land: “encroachment.”
An encroachment happens your neighbor crosses the property lines or a home owner takes over land that provides public access to roads or beaches. Examples of encroachments could involve trees, shrubs, and other landscaping, parts of a building or other structure, fencing, or any other fixture located on both pieces of property.
Oftentimes, the encroachment will be intentional - land or roads will be incorporated into someone’s property to expand the footprint. Sometimes encroachment is unintentional - neighbors encroach because they do not properly survey the boundaries of their property before construction or landscaping work.
What should a property-owner do if his or her property is encroached upon? If you are dealing with a neighbor, you might try being polite first. You can request that the encroachment be removed or, if appropriate, that the person who is doing the encroaching lease the property from you; sometimes they are not aware of the encroachment. As a last resort, you can take the person to court and have it removed by a court order.
If the encroachment is found during the sale of a home, the seller may be able to work with whomever it is that owns the land where the encroachment is located and either have the encroachment removed or resolve any issues to be sure the title is clear at closing. If you are buying a property with an encroachment, don’t ignore it. It is important that any and all encroachments be found before the closing occurs — otherwise, the encroachment will become your nightmare.
It is common to find mistakes when dealing with property boundary lines. They can happen due to errors by land surveyors. Or sometimes property erosion can change the boundary line. But most of the time, it is a property owner usurping a neighbor’s property or community property, because they have not done appropriate due diligence to be sure that what they are building is within the boundaries of their property and according to setbacks of local building code.
If property boundary encroachments are found, the best solution is to get a surveyor to flag the property and for the offending party to work out a solution with their neighbor. Why would any fair-minded person wish to argue with their neighbors about what is on whose property? This never makes for a good relationship when you are living closely to someone. Doing the right thing is always the best road to take.