The moment you believe someone intruded on your property line is shocking. How could someone have the gall to claim a portion of your land? Even if there is an innocent explanation, how could they be so careless?
But the question that matters the most is this: what can you do about it?
Combing through state and local law can leave you even more confused. As a result of this frustration, many landowners like yourself turn to an attorney for answers. After all, there is no better source for advice than a professional with experience.
Regardless, reading this article today will give you some easy steps to follow to solve the problem yourself. If you cannot negotiate a solution alone, request a consultation with an experienced attorney in our network.
What Can You Do About a Property Dispute: Define the Dispute
Since most property disputes involve two sides, it is necessary to examine this section from both angles. First, this section will focus on the party that believes their neighbor has encroached on their land. Then the focus will switch to those who need to defend themselves against the allegation.
You want to review the facts before confronting your neighbor about crossing your property line. Accordingly, take a few deep breaths and start to document the encroachment. Be sure to take detailed pictures, measurements, and notes about where you see violations.
On the other hand, it is equally stressful to have someone make accusations that you overtook part of their land. After all, you do not know many facts during the initial confrontation. Consequently, you should conduct fact-finding before you agree to anything. Take notes about your neighbor’s complaint, remain calm, and politely offer to get back to them after you look into their claims.
Review the Deed
Regardless of what side of the fence you have in this dispute, the deed will be a significant help. This legal document contains a detailed description of the property. As such, it will give you the evidence you need to prove or refute encroachment claims. This is where having a general overview of real estate law could really come in handy.
Review State and Local Laws
A decision on your property dispute may depend on state or local legislation. This element is even more crucial to examine when the complaint resolves around nuisances or eminent domain.
First, consider a situation where someone develops an agricultural operation next to your property in Oregon. The smell from livestock may feel unbearable and intrusive to your rights as a landowner. But the state’s right-to-farm law may prohibit you from suing to protect its contributions to the local economy.
Another frequent cause of disputes is when the government exercises eminent domain. For example, local officials could have decided to build part of a highway through your property. Since this action is in the public interest, they may pay you based on the county assessment. Unfortunately, there can be a notable discrepancy between the market rate and what you receive.
Hire a Land Surveyor
Sometimes, hiring a land surveyor is the furthest step you’ll need to take. A licensed land surveyor can clarify the facts during property line disputes. They will know exactly how to find you property lines, because they have the necessary training, equipment, and experience to provide a valuable third-party assessment. If it proves necessary, you can take their findings to a local court to assert where your property begins and ends. Moreover, if the surveyor’s findings contrast significantly with your neighbor’s claims, the neighbor may have little choice but to back down. This is also a good solution when it comes to easement and trespassing.
Approach Your Neighbor
Even small claims court cases can cost you a surprisingly substantial amount of cash. Furthermore, a protracted legal battle can rack up loads of court or legal fees. As a result, it is usually in your best interests to see if you can find a reasonable solution by hiring a property dispute lawyer, and negotiate a settlement outside of court.
If your neighbor seems belligerent or dangerous, do not risk your safety to have a conversation. You could try something less risky and documentable, like an email, during this phase. Otherwise, consider using the following tips when you meet with them:
- Remain calm and stick to the facts
- Invite witnesses to the meeting
- Organize and bring the documents that relate to their complaint with you
- Arrive prepared to offer a solution that benefits both parties
Consult With a Property Dispute Attorney
Unfortunately, there are situations where reaching a private agreement is not possible. You may have irreconcilable differences of opinion, or your neighbor could outright refuse to engage with you. Either way, consider talking to legal counsel if you have not already.
Generally, the sooner you engage with an attorney, the better. They may even take over negotiations and bring their expertise to bear. The recommendations they give may vary, but the next step is typically to deliver your case and demands to your neighbor.
Send a Demand Letter
A demand letter should be composed carefully. It is a precursor to filing a civil complaint with a local court. Your lawyer will write this document and ensure it gets delivered to your neighbor. The content will depend on your circumstances, but the general outline will be as follows:
- A description of the dispute
- Evidence that asserts or refutes the claim
- An action that should happen in response to the letter or a suggested date to attend a mediation session
File a Lawsuit
Once you reach this point, you have a well-documented case that you took reasonable steps to resolve. But there is a point where you need to file with a local judiciary. If the damages are moderate, your lawyer may represent you in a small claims court.
Filing a civil action does not mean a decision by a judge or jury is inevitable. Some states make participation in mediation a requirement. Alternatively, there is time to negotiate a settlement before the court issues its ruling. In some situations, it can take the threat of a lawsuit to motivate the other party to make either scenario happen.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Property Line Disputes?
Few civil actions do not have a statute of limitations. But this tends to depend on state law, so you will need to conduct some research or simply ask your attorney. For example, consider the laws from either coast of the United States.
The Washington State Legislature has a three-year limit on these tort actions. This law includes situations where someone trespassed or damaged your property.
You have a little more time when you live in Florida. Current statutes allow the court system to take these cases within four years.
In many situations, the proverbial clock does not start to tick until you realize there is a problem. But legal precedent will factor into this consideration and can take a lawyer to interpret whether you waited too long.
Request Legal Help For A Property Dispute From Our Network
Have you already tried the suggestions from this article?
Are you tired of Googling “property dispute lawyer near me” and combing through endless and ridiculous search results?
Now is the time to get started. If you need a property dispute attorney, call us at (866) 345-6784 or send us a request. We will connect you with a highly-qualified lawyer from our network who is ready to represent your interests.