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What to Do if a Neighbor Builds a Fence on Your Property

[Updated: Sep 11, 2020 ] Mar 31, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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Many homeowners put up fences to get more privacy, keep pets enclosed, and keep wildlife away. But what happens when your neighbor puts up a fence that ends up on your property?

It's a somewhat common thing to have happen. Property lines can get muddled, and often, a homeowner will encroach on a neighbor's property not intentionally, but due to a simple misunderstanding. Still, as the person whose land now has an unwanted fence sitting on it, it can make for a tough situation. Here's how to handle it.

1. Check your property survey

The deed to your home may describe where your property line lies, but if you want to be absolutely sure of where it is, access a copy of your land survey. The purpose of a survey is to establish property boundaries, so it's the best way to determine whether your neighbor has actually taken up some of your land, and also, the easiest way to prove it.

Your best bet in hunting down your survey is to contact your local government office and ask for advice. There may be a copy accessible through its building or zoning department or through your tax assessor's office. You can also try contacting the real estate lawyer you used to close on your home and see how to access that document.

If your survey offers proof that your neighbor's fence was actually erected on your property, you have every right to ask for that portion of the fence to be moved. Put that request in writing, and give your neighbor a chance to address it. Be prepared to share your survey with your neighbor to back up your claim.

2. Check your neighbor's permit

Homeowners are often required to obtain a permit prior to constructing a fence, and a permit should indicate where a fence can and cannot go. Often, homeowners are barred from constructing a fence all the way up against their property line to prevent scenarios like this, where a fence accidentally crosses that line. If you can prove that your neighbor violated that rule, you may have some recourse.

3. Don't attempt to tear down the fence yourself

Having a fence appear on your property can make you angry, and understandably so, but don't make the mistake of ripping down or damaging that fence while the matter is up for debate. In doing so, you may wind up having to compensate your neighbor.

4. When all else fails, seek legal help

If you can prove to your neighbor that his or her fence has landed on your property and that neighbor refuses to move or tear it down, you may have no choice but to contact a lawyer -- unless there's some way for your town to intervene, which there may not be. An attorney can advise you of what legal action to take, and if the matter ends up going to court, rest assured that if you have proof that the fence in question is on your property, there's a good chance your neighbor will be forced to remove it -- and possibly cover some or all of your legal fees as well.

Neighbor disputes are never fun to deal with. Go about this one the right way, and with any luck, that obtrusive fence will be gone before you know it.

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