What to Know About Property Encroachments

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Executive Realty 91362

When you are living next door to neighbors, many things can cause disputes and stress. Whether barking dogs, parking disagreements, or something else, it can cause much annoyance in your life.

One problem people don't often consider until they are in this situation is encroachments. But what is an encroachment, and how do you deal with it? What can you do about it if this happens to you?

Let's examine what you need to know about property encroachments.

What is the Encroachments Definition?

The meaning of encroachment in real estate refers to a situation where one homeowner’s property crosses the property lines into a neighboring lot.

An encroachment could be intentional, like when a neighbor builds something on land to which they have no ownership rights. This can also be unintentional if there is some misunderstanding or ambiguity about the property lines.

Even if this has happened to you and it does not appear to be doing any real harm to you or your property, it still needs to be dealt with. There could be liability issues, damaging your property in ways you don't realize, and it could become an issue when you come to sell the home.

An encroachment can make selling your home more difficult, as it can appear in title searches. And even if the issue does not bother you, it might concern potential buyers.

How to Deal with Encroachments

If your neighbor encroaches on your property, you should deal with it quickly. Most of the time, an issue like this can be dealt with relatively easily to the satisfaction of both neighbors.

Let's look at what you can do to resolve an encroachment:

Get a Survey Done to Verify There is an Encroachment

Many times homeowners assume they know where their property lines are located. Quite often, they are wrong. You should never take where your neighbor says the lot lines are located for granted.

The best way to find out where your property boundaries are is to have the land surveyed by a professional land surveyor.

When you hire a land surveyor, they will provide a land survey that shows exactly where the property lines are located.

Try Talking to Your Neighbor

A good place to start is by discussing the matter with your neighbor. It can probably be resolved quickly if the issue is minor, like a tree branch overhanging your property.

Always begin a conversation like this with the assumption that the encroachment is unintended and unnoticed. This will prevent things from becoming acrimonious when they don't need to be.

Sell Land or an Easement to The Neighbor

If the encroachment is more serious than a tree branch, selling that portion of the land to your neighbor can be better. You can also sell an easement, a right to access that part of the land.

This option can help remove any future problems and uncertainty the situation could create.

Begin Legal Proceedings

As a last resort, legal action might be required. If you cannot resolve the situation or the neighbor is unwilling to discuss the matter, legal action might be all that is left.

Choosing this option will be costly, and it isn't exactly going to improve relationships between neighbors either. It can also take a long time to resolve, which will be a problem if you want to sell your home anytime soon.

On top of those problems, the judge may not favor you. The court might find your neighbor's trespass to be legitimate, and they could decide to grant a prescriptive easement.

But if things go your way, your neighbor will be ordered to remove whatever encroaches on your land.

Encroachments vs. Easements

Despite property encroachments and easements involving using a neighbor's land, they are very different and should not be confused.

Easements are agreements allowing land access, whereby encroachments happen without any agreement. An easement can be granted if a neighbor needs temporary access to part of your land.

Perhaps access is required for a short time to maintain part of their property that is otherwise not accessible. Long-term easements can be granted to allow someone access to part of their property or perhaps something like a nearby beach.

If an encroachment is not addressed, it could become a prescriptive easement after a certain amount of time.

If your neighbor has been using your land for a long period, an unrecorded encumbrance can be created, though it depends on the laws in your state. For example, this could happen if someone has been parking their car on your property for a long time, and you haven't done anything to stop them.

The Bottom Line on Property Encroachments

While conflict with your neighbor won't be pleasant, ignoring encroachments isn't an option either.

Even if the encroachment doesn't worry you, it could make selling your home more difficult. The encroachment could also become a prescriptive easement, and you can't do much to change the situation.

Posted by

Bill Gassett is a thirty-two year veteran to the real estate industry. He enjoys providing helpful information to buyers, sellers and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, RESAAS, Credit Sesame and others.

Comments (4)

Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.

Mar 28, 2023 02:41 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Bill - when confronted with an encroachment issue, "time" is not likely your friend.  Promptness is one word that comes to mind.  

Mar 28, 2023 03:11 AM
Joe Jackson
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Columbus, OH
Clintonville and Central Ohio Real Estate Expert

This is an excellent post with great information. Thanks for sharing it.

Have a super fantastic week!
Joe Jackson, Realtor-KWCP

Mar 28, 2023 07:00 AM
Bill Gassett
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Hopkinton, MA
Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate

Thanks for the comps guys.

Mar 28, 2023 08:18 AM