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How to handle an encroachment on your property

Property disputes are not uncommon. Noise complaints, yard waste and easements are a few examples of issues that can become problematic. While these are relatively mundane catalysts for neighborhood friction, what happens when someone else actually puts a structure on your property?

Encroachment occurs when another person builds something that intrudes on or above your land. This can escalate into a serious legal issue if it can't be resolved in an amicable, neighborly fashion. If you find yourself dealing with someone else building on your property, what actions are available to you?

Try talking it out first

Your first step in dealing with encroachment should be to to your neighbor. If you can come to an agreement or resolution without involving the courts, you could save yourself a considerable amount of time and money. If you decide to leave the encroachment on your property, consider giving your neighbor written permission--this can come in handy if they claim adverse possession later on.

Sell the encroached-upon property to your neighbor

If after discussing the matter your neighbor is unable or unwilling to move the encroachment, you could sell them the piece of property. Your neighbor would then maintain their structure without worry, and you'd receive compensation.

Going to court as a final option

If there isn't a simple resolution available, you may need to go to court. To legally get rid of the encroachment you'll have to prove that:

  • You own the encroached-upon property.
  • Your neighbor is improperly using the property and their structure should be removed.

A quiet title action can establish that you own the property. This legal maneuver calls for the judge to determine the property boundaries involved. An ejectment action, if the judge issues it, would force your neighbor to remove the encroachment.

Because this can be a complex legal issue, it behooves you to consult with a real estate attorney. The encroachment court process can be expensive, time-consuming and does not always end up in your favor. An experienced professional can show you the options at your disposal and assist in helping you reach a reasonable solution.

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