Have you ever looked at your neighbor’s tree branch hanging over your fence, showering your pristine lawn with leaves and sticks, and wondered if anything could be done about it?
Or how about their shed, backed right up to the edge of your driveway?
If you feel like a neighbor has been crossing the line, you might be right. But before you confront them, lay some groundwork to be sure you know where you stand:
- Get a survey. The description of your property is in the deed. But that description sometimes refers to old stone walls, trees, or other markers that could be gone or unrecognizable to the untrained eye. Or, they might refer to lands owned by people who have long since died or left the community. A professional surveyor will tell you exactly where your property ends and your neighbor’s begins.
- Understand your local law. Municipalities often regulate how much of a lot can be covered with a building or paving, or how close to the road or the boundary line a structure can be. Even if your neighbor’s new solar array is glinting at you from across the property line, it might still be too close to be legal. Local laws sometimes regulate other sources of conflict, like the hours in which construction activity may occur, or the number of animals can be kenneled outside a residence.
- Document the disturbance. The law of nuisance prevents people from using their properties in ways that interfere with their neighbors’ use and enjoyment of their own. It will help to be able to describe the frequency of the disturbances and the harm they have caused if you ever have to sue to put a stop to the harmful activity.
We recently helped a family whose neighbor was abusing an easement to cross their property. The neighbor’s property was made up of three separate parcels, and our clients had given an easement for access to just one of those parcels. When the neighbor started using his property as a bed and breakfast and wedding venue, his patrons would use the easement to cross over our client’s property to access the neighbor’s land. We won a court ruling ordering the neighbor to prevent his patrons from using the easement to access any part of his property not originally covered by the easement.