Good Neighbors: How to Peacefully Resolve A Dispute Over Property Lines Plus Other Common Disputes
The poet Robert Frost said good fences make good neighbors. Normally, this is true. However, there are times where the fence actually leads to a disagreement over property lines. Luckily, you don’t have to resort to court trials or fistfights to figure it out. Here are some ways to peacefully resolve disputes over property lines.
A disagreement over several inches shouldn’t cause a feud that destroys an existing friendship. One reason for the issue could be an honest mistake made in the measurements when you or your neighbor originally build the wall. It might not even be either your or your neighbor’s fault. It might stem from the actions of your home’s previous occupant.
Whatever the situation, remain civil through the disagreement. There’s no need to add fuel to a list of problems that stem from years back. Not only does this hurt the situation but it causes distress across the neighborhood.
Bring In a Surveyor
You and your neighbor should continue on a civil path by hiring a professional that deals in land surveying. They will take measurements of the disputed area and compare them to the town’s existing records. Then they will take all of the information and create a report with their results.
The person doing the land surveying is going to rule in favor of either your or your neighbor. This doesn’t mean you need to get upset or act smug when the results come out. Rather, accept their ruling as simply another piece of information to add should the situation go to the next step.
Try to Reach a Civil Agreement
The quickest and least expensive way to resolve the issue is to reach a neighbor-to-neighbor agreement. If the dispute is over just a couple inches one way or another, neither of you should have to bother moving the fence. Rather, both of you can agree to leave things as they are. However, if the disputed difference is bigger than that, you two should sit down and talk reasonably until you reach an agreement.
Nevertheless, you still want to make it legal. To do this, you both need to sign a new deed that details the land perimeter. Though it’s a simple agreement between the two of you, it’s a good idea to go through a lawyer to ensure everything is properly listed. Once signed, file the document with your county offices.
Bring In a Mediator
If you can’t resolve this personally, then bring in a mediator to help resolve the issue. This is an inexpensive way to figure out the situation and come to a solution you can both agree on. Plus, it avoids escalating to lawyers or going to court.
Of course, the same principles apply to other common neighborhood disputes. These are a few that you might experience.
Improvement Without Approvals
In a typical neighborhood, there are approvals or permits that one must get before making significant alterations to their property. For example, you may need permits from your local building department and approval from the relevant HOA (homeowners association). A neighbor who starts a major renovation or improvement project on their property without such approvals may trigger a major dispute. Consider the example of a neighbor who decides to make an addition to their home without getting the relevant permits; you have the right to dispute such a move if they contravene existing laws and regulations.
Encroachment on Property
This is another common cause of property disputes: when a neighbor decides to disregard property lines or boundaries. For example, a neighbor building a storage shed errs when their shade extends to your side of the property line, damaging your own yard. Another example is when a neighbor plants a vegetable garden that crosses the property line into your side of the home.
Interference With an Easement
An easement is the right to use another person’s property without gaining ownership of the said property. For example, if you own a waterfront property, an easement may grant you the right to cross your neighbor’s property to get to a nearby beach. A neighbor who interferes with an existing easement can create a serious dispute. For example, if your neighbor builds an additional structure that prevents you from exercising your easement rights, you have the right to dispute your neighbor’s actions provided the easement was legally created.
Breaking Zoning Rules and Regulations
Lastly, disputes can also arise between neighbors if one of them breaks the zoning rules and regulations. As you know, you don’t have the right to use your property any way you wish because local zoning laws and even HOA rules have a say on the matter. Therefore, if your HOA forbids renters and your neighbor decides to rent out their home during their vacation time, then they are inviting disputes from other members of the HOA. Or if your neighbor decides to keep a few pigs and hens in contravention of zoning laws, you have the right to dispute their agricultural enterprise.
A simple disagreement can lead to major disputes between neighbors. However, you don’t have to turn a dispute over property lines into a neighborhood scandal. Work with your neighbor and bring in professionals who can help you two come to an agreement.
It’s a good idea to sit down with your neighbor and try to solve your dispute without suing each other. However, if you can’t reach an agreement on your own, you do have the right to seek legal redress.