Dealing with boundary disputes

Border disputes can happen when neighbors do not have a clear understanding of where their property boundaries are. In most cases, the dispute is caused by encroachment.

When your neighbor builds a new garage that crosses the property line, the structure is encroaching on your property. Encroachment can also happen above the property line. For example, if your neighbor built a new upper level deck that overhangs into your yard, the deck is encroaching on your property even though it is above ground.

Do you know where your property boundaries are?

While most property owners like to think they know exactly where the boundaries of their land are, memories and understandings can be vague. Before approaching your neighbor about a possible boundary dispute, it is best to know exactly where your land ends and theirs begins.

You can find detailed information about your property at the county clerk’s office. They will have a land survey on file at their office, but it can be complicated to read and filled with hard to understand terminology. Another option is to hire a professional surveyor to perform a survey of your land. Hiring a surveyor is more expensive, but can be an easier option to clearly indentify property lines.

What can you do about encroachment?

If the encroaching structure does not bother you, you can do nothing and let the issue drop. This will help preserve a good relationship with your neighbor; however, you need to disclose the encroachment to potential buyers if you ever sell the property.

Talking to your neighbor about the encroachment and asking for the structure to be removed from your property is another option. If the structure cannot be moved or altered in order to remove it from your property, consider selling that portion of your property to your neighbor using a lot line agreement.

A lot line agreement is a mutual agreement between two parties to alter the existing boundaries of a plot of land. In urban and residential environments, the change must comply with land zoning requirements and may also require the permission of city municipality departments. If either property currently has a mortgage, the lender may also need to approve the change.

While you can handle the transfer of property between the two parties involved without legal assistance, having a qualified real estate attorney review any documents can help protect the interest of both parties.

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