What is Encroachment and How Can You Fix It?
Measured surveys are often crucial parts of property development planning.
Article By: Francesca Burke
Last Update: November 2018
What is Encroachment?
An encroachment is when another person (such as a neighbour) builds or installs a structure that intrudes on or over your land. For example, the people in the flat above you could extend their balcony by ten feet, thus encroaching over your garden space. Or your next door neighbour could take down fence panels to install a huge shed at the bottom of their garden that takes up space in your garden.
They’re pretty exaggerated examples – an encroachment may just occur when a neighbour extends a fence line, driveway or porch.
What Can You Do If Your Property Is Being Encroached Upon By a Neighbour?
First of all, don’t panic. You may picture messy legal battles and arguments over the garden fence, but most encroachment issues don’t come to that! There are several ways to solve encroachment issues easily, without causing either party stress or anxiety.
Talk With Your Neighbour
First of all, speak to your neighbour! They may not be aware that they’ve intruded upon your property and may be happy to move or take down the structure.
Get a Professional Boundary Survey
It may be useful to obtain a professional boundary survey of your property to establish exactly where the encroachment lies, plus the extent of the encroachment. This will verify the extent of the issue and make any paperwork a lot easier to deal with.
Reach an Agreement With Your Neighbour
If you’re happy to leave the structure in place after a discussion, it’s a good idea to consult a solicitor and give your neighbour written permission to use the land. This can help prevent claims of adverse possession. Essentially, adverse possession is a way for a person to obtain the title to a property simply by openly possessing it for a long time. For example, if your neighbour’s fence crosses your property line and stays up for a long time (15 or 20 years), it’s possible that they’ll gain the title to your property on their side of the fence. This could make life difficult when you come to sell the property! Furthermore, it may set a precedent for your neighbour to take other liberties with encroachment – not something to encourage.
If the structure doesn’t bother you except as a point of principle, perhaps you could sell or rent the land to your neighbour? Again, consult your solicitor and mortgage lender to ensure all paperwork and land records are in order to avoid issues in years to come.
Seek Third Party Mediation
Lawsuits are expensive, and no one wants to continuously fight with their closest neighbours. If you cannot agree a solution to the encroachment, seek professional mediation. In many cases, the encroachment of a fence line or structure takes only a small space from a neighbouring property and the issue is really just a point to principle. No one likes their hard-earned land being taken away! Again, we recommend talking over the issue before making any rash decisions.
If Absolutely All Else Fails, Seek Legal Advice
Sometimes it’s not possible to reach an agreement with your neighbour via mediation. If you do not want to sell them the land, give them written permission to use it or risk adverse possession issues, seek legal advice. A reputable local attorney will be able to advise you about the options and practicalities of litigation.