An "encroachment" generally refers to a situation in which there is unauthorized trespass by someone onto another's property. For example, your neighbor could build a new deck, which stretches over several inches of your property, or you could discover that the fence in your backyard encroaches onto your neighbor's property by several feet. Encroachments can be unintentional or intentional, and depending on the type of encroachment (and your relationship with the neighbor), relatively simple or very difficult to remedy.
Verifying That An Encroachment Exists
If you are unsure, but suspect there may be an encroachment on your property, you should have a professional survey of your property done to confirm. Many established physical property boundaries aren't always accurate, so a survey will give an accurate reading of where the actual property lines exist.
Once you verify that there has been an encroachment onto your property, it is important to remedy it, as an encroachment will need to be disclosed to any future buyer and thus will affect your property value. Because encroachments often involve neighboring properties, it is usually best to talk to your neighbor about the problem first to preserve good relations. There may be an easy fix to the encroachment, especially if the encroaching structural work is just in its beginning stages or can easily be removed. If the encroachment cannot easily be physically moved off of your property, one solution is to sell the portion of the land encroached upon to the trespassing neighbor.
If the neighbor is uncooperative, you may want to consider filing an action in court, called a quiet title action. In a quiet title action, you ask the court to determine that you have "title" to the property affected by the encroachment. If the court determines that you do in fact have title it will usually order the other party to relinquish possession of the portion of the property encroached upon. However, there are also risks involved in bringing a quiet title action for an encroachment issue. The biggest risk is that if the encroachment has been there for a certain period of time and has been made in a certain manner, the court may determine your neighbor has established "adverse possession" of the property encroached upon and award your neighbor title to the portion of the property in dispute.
Encroachments Affect Your Property Rights
Encroachments affect your property rights and may bring down the value of your property. If you suspect you have an encroachment on your property, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Contact our firm today for solid advice on dealing with encroachment issues.