How to Handle a Property Line Dispute

Property line disputes between neighbors are common. Sometimes the issue boils down to a simple misunderstanding or mistake and can easily be resolved, but in other instances, homeowners need to get government officials and even attorneys involved.

Gather Information
If you believe that your neighbor’s fence, tree or other structure is encroaching on your property, check official records before you raise the issue with your neighbor. It’s possible that descriptions of the property line on your and your neighbor’s deeds are inconsistent or that a previous owner of your property deeded the piece of land to your neighbor or granted an easement. You might not have found out about it when you bought the house if you didn’t conduct a title search.

If the location of the property line is unclear, a surveyor can figure out exactly where the line lies. If you believe your neighbor is in the wrong, research state and local laws and make sure you fully understand the issue and are on solid legal footing.

Discuss the Matter With Your Neighbor
If you and your neighbor have a good relationship, you can raise the property line issue with a face-to-face conversation. Be civil and don’t use the discussion as an opportunity to vent about unrelated issues. Doing so would only make your neighbor feel attacked, and the conversation would likely turn into a heated argument that would resolve nothing.

If you and your neighbor are both calm and reasonable and you present evidence to back up your claim, you may be able to resolve the issue amicably by yourselves. You could agree to sell the piece of disputed land to your neighbor and file a deed outlining your agreement with the appropriate local government body, or the neighbor could agree to move the structure off your property.

What to Do If You Can’t Resolve the Issue Yourselves
If you and your neighbor are unable to reach an agreement on your own, you can try mediation. Your local police department or courthouse may be able to help you find a mediator with experience handling property line disputes.

If your neighbor is being unreasonable and is unwilling to work with a mediator, you can have your attorney send a letter explaining the property line violation and requesting a specific remedy. Your neighbor may begin to take the issue seriously after receiving the attorney’s letter.

If these measures don’t work, you may have to file a lawsuit. That should be a last resort since lawsuits can be lengthy and expensive and can permanently damage relationships between neighbors.

Try to Work Things out on Your Own
If you have a property line dispute with your neighbor, do your best to resolve it amicably. Gather as much information as possible before raising the issue, and try to find a solution to avoid expensive bills and strained relations.

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