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Do you know where your property line is? Does your neighbor?

When you purchased your home, you probably received a deed outlining the boundaries of your property. Perhaps you even had a survey done as part of the transaction in order to ensure that the title records were complete and correct. Having these documents and understanding what that means when you look outside may be two different things, however.

Do you know where the boundaries of your property are? If not, you may not realize that new shed, garage or home addition your neighbor plans to build could be on your land. While this may not seem like a big deal right now, if you end up selling your home in the future, it could become a great deal more important. So how do you handle the situation?

The delicacies of handling encroachment by a neighbor

The legal terminology for your neighbor crossing over onto your land in some way is encroachment. When you discover the situation, you may wonder how to deal with it since you don't want to end up with an enemy next door. Perhaps you are even friendly with your neighbor and don't want to jeopardize that relationship.

Many sources recommend that your first course of action could involve simply talking to your neighbor about it. Your neighbor may be able to relocate the structure that sits on your property. After discussing the issue, you may agree to allow the structure to remain where it is. If you make that decision, a written agreement may protect you from a court ruling that your neighbor now owns the affected portion of your land.

In the alternative, you could sell that piece of your property to your neighbor if the structure can't be moved. However, if you have a mortgage loan on your property, you may need to consult with your lender first. Moreover, you will need to make sure that the property records in your area reflect the change of ownership and the composition of your property.

When talking does no good

If you can't work out a satisfactory agreement with your neighbor, you may need to take legal action. In most cases, this is a two-step process as follows:

  • First, you may need to file a quiet title action to prove that you own the property in question.
  • Second, you may need to file an ejectment action to remove your neighbor from your property.

These processes often take time to complete, and you may not receive the result you desire. The court could determine that your neighbor has a claim for adverse possession depending on how long he or she has used the piece of land. The court could also grant your neighbor a prescriptive easement, which allows him or her to use the land for a specific purpose.

Increasing your chances of successfully resolving the encroachment could involve the use of local legal resources here in the Los Angeles area.

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Kashfian & Kashfian, LLP
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