Property line disputes are touchy issues. Regardless of who is right or wrong or whose side the law is on, you and the other party are both defending what is likely the biggest asset you own. This means it is easy for emotions to come into play and for disputes to become heated very quickly. At the same time, these issues are often not black and white and there are many facets that come into play.
The act of a property owner crossing over the legal boundary line of a property onto their neighbor’s land is called encroachment. Sometimes this is intentional, and other times it is accidental. Either way, an encroachment attorney can help settle the matter and ensure that no one is having their rights violated. Encroachment is a property rights violation and includes trespassing, invading structures both permanent and temporary, as well as something as seemingly simple as an overgrown hedge.
In today’s blog, we are going to discuss four steps you can take to settle a boundary dispute. While it is often beneficial for all parties to stay out of court, the encroachment attorneys at Alex Hernandez Business Law can take your case to trial if needed.
First, What Not To Do…
It is never a good idea to “take matters into your own hands,” so to speak, when it comes to a property boundary dispute. By that, we mean do not go and tear down your neighbor’s encroaching structure. Even if it is crossing over the property line, it will only cause more issues if you try to remove it yourself.
Step One: Talk To Your Neighbor
So, your neighbor just got a new puppy and built a fence to keep him in, and you believe that the fence encroaches on your land. Or perhaps they have a beautiful pecan tree that is hanging into your yard that you don’t want there. It is possible that a knock on the door and a friendly reminder that these things are crossing over into your property is enough for them to agree to cut back the tree or move their fence. Perhaps they simply had a misunderstanding of where the property line is or didn’t even realize their tree was in your yard.
Step Two: Bring Out The Deeds
If your neighbor swears that their structures do not encroach on your property, arrange a time to sit down with them and compare deeds. If the neighbor flat-out refuses, then it might be a good time to call a property dispute lawyer to avoid any problems. Though, if they agree and want to work with you, then it is acceptable to move forward without a lawyer for the time being. Most deeds will outline exactly where the property lines are and this evidence might be enough to settle the dispute.
When There’s A Problem
There are two main issues that can crop up when looking at deeds. The first is realizing either or both of your deeds do not actually state where the property line is. If this is the case, you will need to hire a land surveyor to come out and determine where the boundaries are. You will need to reach an agreement about who will pay for this or if you will split the cost. If you cannot easily agree on this, it may be time to look into a property dispute lawyer.
The other issue that may arise is when both deeds state property lines that overlap. There are many reasons why this would occur, and it is important to either have this issue resolved legally to avoid future disputes, or to decide to let the issue go if it is not worth the time, effort, and money it will take to solve it.
Step Three: Hire A Real Estate Lawyer
If you and your neighbor cannot reach a compromise, it is time to hire a property dispute attorney. Your lawyer will determine the best path of action to take. This can involve simply sending the neighbor an official letter requesting that they take action to vacate their structures from your property. Many people will take this as a sign that you are serious and will agree to your requests at the risk of getting involved in a lawsuit. Others, though, may end up hiring their own attorney. This is often due to the same reason you hired a lawyer — simply to have a professional on your side helping you to navigate and negotiate the situation. Your counsel can attempt a settlement or negotiation with the other party out of court.
Step Four: File A Lawsuit
If the matter persists and nothing can be resolved, it may be time to take the other party to court if you believe the property is worth fighting over and possibly incurring large legal expenses. At this point, both parties attorneys should have all of the evidence available to present to a judge who can settle the matter.
What If It’s Not Just A Fence?
Earlier we used the example of a fence encroaching on your land for a boundary dispute… but what if the encroachment is a little harder to move than a regular fence, portable shed, or kid’s swing set? What if it is a permanent home addition or a swimming pool? If this is the case, an arrangement can be made between the encroaching party and the encroached upon where the encroaching party legally acquires the land and the boundaries are rewritten. In this case, the encroacher should bear all fees associated with this acquisition, as they are the ones in violation. Your real estate attorney can help you through this process and often, this is an ideal solution that solves the problem at minimal expense.
Animals And Human Encroachment
Perhaps your neighbor doesn’t have any physical structures on your property, but their unleashed dog roams the neighborhood and hangs out on your property, you have seen them hunting on your land, or they regularly cut through your yard to the point where they have worn a nice footpath into your lawn… what then? Often the way to deal with this issue will depend on the city or municipality where you live. Different regions have different laws governing this. Local law enforcement can help, especially if a neighbor is doing something dangerous or destructive on your property. Just like other property disputes, if you have a good relationship with your neighbor it is best to try and talk it out first, as involving legal counsel or law enforcement can create bad blood. However, if the problem persists, do not hesitate to seek legal aid as you have every right to keep people and their pets off of your property.
Choose An Experienced Real Estate Attorney
Our team of experienced professionals know the ins and outs of real estate law and can help mediate a dispute between neighbors, draw up a settlement, and take the dispute to court if needed. Get in touch today for legal help for property disputes in Texas.