If you've recently had your property boundaries mapped by a land surveyor, you may be surprised to find out that a neighbor's home, garage, or other structure is encroaching on a portion of your property. If left unresolved, this situation can cause legal and financial problems -- in fact, in many states, if an individual has "openly and notoriously" encroached upon a neighbor's property, after a certain period of time the encroaching individual can actually legally own this piece of land. Read on to learn more about the steps you can take if you've discovered such a situation on your own property.
What is adverse possession?
Adverse possession is a legal principle allowing someone who openly encroaches upon someone else's property to eventually own this property. In many states, constant and continual possession of the piece of property for 10 years or more is enough to vest title in the encroacher.
In many cases, adverse possession can work in a homeowner's favor -- allowing the homeowner to eventually own a vital piece of his or her property (such as a driveway or other access point) that was overlooked in the initial surveying process. However, in other cases, adverse possession can allow a neighbor to take advantage of your failure to have your property surveyed upon purchase by encroaching upon and eventually staking claim to a piece of property you own.
What can you do if you find out your neighbor's structure is over the property line?
If you've found yourself in this situation, there are a couple of steps you can take to solve this problem.
In some cases, your neighbor's cost of tearing down the building and reconstructing a new one on their side of the property line may be excessive -- he or she might wish instead to purchase the portion of property on which his or her building lies. To do this, you'll need to partition off this part of your property. Both you and your neighbor should have your properties surveyed by a reputable company, such as Arizona Surveying and Mapping, to determine precisely which parts should be partitioned, as well as to establish a fair market value for this property sale.
Another option is to bring an action against your neighbor in small claims court. If you can establish that your neighbor has built onto your property, you'll be able to receive a monetary judgment for damages, as well as "specific performance" -- requiring your neighbor to tear down or move the building onto their parcel instead.