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Get Off My Lawn! Four Steps To Keep Encroaching Neighbors In Check

by Hugh Snyder

Most renters and landowners have had to deal with an overly enthusiastic neighbor at some point, but what can you do when that neighbor begins building or landscaping on your own property? This is especially common in rural areas, where properties tend to be sprawling and ill-defined, but even urban residents can be shocked to wake up one morning and discover a new garden shed or downed tree in their yard. When tricky disputes like this come up, keep a cool head and follow these five steps to resolve the matter as quickly and civilly as possible.  

Discussing Your Concerns Politely

In many cases, property line conflicts are simply the result of poor communication. If you are planning any projects near a property boundary, it is respectful to always let your neighbor know beforehand. This gives both parties time to air any issues before expensive construction begins. Similarly, as soon as you believe your neighbor may be encroaching on your land, walk over and politely express your concerns. You may be able to resolve the conflict in a few minutes, with no external help required and before any permanent damage is done. 

Checking Your Own Borders

If you and your neighbor cannot agree on your property line and your neighbor refuses to stop working on your land or pay damages, double check with your own records before moving on to professional consultation. Most properties are sold with a land surveyor's map, marking out the boundaries, buildings and any other relevant features included with the parcel. Use this map to confirm your own suspicions, and show it to your neighbor as evidence that you own the land in question. For larger properties, however, it may be harder to find the exact boundaries on your own, which is when you'll need to bring in a surveyor. 

Confirming Your Boundaries With a Land Surveyor

Land surveyors are trained to meticulously document and map out properties, and the maps they create are typically legally permissible. A surveyor should be able to walk you along the boundaries of your land and offer an experienced perspective on your land dispute with your neighbor. At this time, it is a good idea to mark your property lines with stakes, ribbons, signs, or fencing. This will prevent further misunderstandings in the future. 

For professional land surveying, contact a company such as Goldsmith.

Taking Legal Action

Hiring a land surveyor is usually all it takes to settle a question of boundaries, but some neighbors will still refuse to let the disagreement go. Once you have exhausted all other options, you may need to take legal action against your neighbor to receive compensation for any damages or halt construction. The testimony and documentation from your land surveyor will be very useful at this stage, and assuming the maps are all in your favor, you should secure your land with legal help in a relatively short period of time. By staying calm and handling this dispute with professional assistance, you can avoid creating undue bitterness with your neighbor while still retaining your property rights in full.