A vast majority of disputes between neighbors involve land usage—as in, “your [fence, shed, driveway, etc.] is on my property!” The logical first step in assessing these types of claims is to figure out who owns what land.
Step #1: Trace back to when the property was subdivided. The first step in resolving a neighbor land use dispute is to compare the ownership deeds. You want to make sure that the property descriptions are uniform, tracing back to the original subdivision of the property. If there has been an error, you should be able to determine who has proper title by tracing backward.
Step #2: Check that purported boundaries match deed descriptions. Once you’ve reviewed title to the properties, you need to ascertain whether the purported boundaries coincide with the description in the deeds. Have a survey conducted to determine, for example, whether a fence is actually built on the property boundary. Depending on what you learn, it may turn out that the complaining party is actually complaining about the what the other party is doing on his or her own property!
Historical usage could potentially impact rights regardless of what the deeds say, but that impact is usually limited because of the need in most cases to show payment of taxes. To save yourself a lot of trouble, make sure that complaining party really has a right to use (or control the use of) the property he or she claims has been overburdened or damaged.
Of course, these steps may not have much value when the intrusion on the neighbor’s property is so pervasive that even a legitimate boundary line dispute would make no real difference. But there may be other reasons peculiar to the particular claim to merit taking the steps.
For practical help with a wide range of neighbor dispute situations, including defenses to use in each type of case, turn to CEB’s Neighbor Disputes: Law and Litigation.
Other CEB blog posts you might find interesting:
- Spiteful Neighbors
- Don’t Lose Out on Your Fees in a Neighbor Dispute Case
- California Homeowner Bill of Rights: Does It Have Teeth?
© The Regents of the University of California, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.