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What is Property Encroachment?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Property encroachment is a situation which occurs when someone on one lot builds something which protrudes into the neighboring lot. One of the classic cases is structural encroachment, in which part of a building spills over the lot line, but building fences, gardening beds, and other features which overstep the property line could also be termed property encroachment. Some interesting legal situations can occur in cases of encroachment, and as a general rule, the sooner it is dealt with, the better.

Sometimes, property encroachment is an honest mistake. Bad surveys are a common cause, as are unclear communications between homeowners and contractors, neighbors, or tenants. Often, property owners are not fully aware of where their property lines begin and end, and they may encroach without being aware of it. On other occasions, the encroachment may be deliberate and malicious, as in the case of neighbors who have a contentious relationship and start building fences where they are legally not allowed to do so.

Once the encroachment occurs, there are several actions which can be taken. A property owner may politely request the encroachment be addressed by being removed, or ask the encroaching landowner pay rent for the land they are encroaching on. It is also possible to go to court and request a court order for removal, and sometimes land owners can sell the encroached land to the encroaching landowner, thereby making it theirs to use in perpetuity.

In many regions of the world, property encroachment is covered under adverse possession laws. Under these laws, if someone openly uses and improves land and pays property taxes, he or she can take possession of it after a certain period of time. For example, a neighbor might use part of someone else's lot as a driveway, constituting open use and improvement if he or she paves or gravels the drive. After several years, they can file for the deed to the land, arguing that they took possession openly and no one complained, and they paid property taxes and upgraded the land. People may also be entitled to a permanent easement, even if they cannot take possession of the land, and this can cause a decline in the value of the property.

As a general rule, people do not want to lose parts of their property due to adverse possession. For this reason, it is important to take action on suspected cases of property encroachment, to work out a deal which satisfies everyone. It is also important to have property surveyed when it is purchased so that any areas of encroachment can be identified and addressed.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1004177 — On Dec 04, 2020

This isn't even accurate. You can't deed land to people without disrupting your own house zoning.

By anon986281 — On Jan 23, 2015

To blame a surveyor is a little forward. Most surveyors do a good job.

By anon358950 — On Dec 13, 2013

We bought a property and was told a well was under a broken dome. We got a builder to repair the well. When opening it up we found it was a 5 meter by 5 meter deep water storage pit which was made of bricks. We also found it was half on our neighbor's property. The neighbours are a block of five flats.

We spoke with each occupier and one landlord showing this dangerous pit. All but the landlord saw the danger and supported the repair and filling in of the pit. The neighbours’ builder had discovered the pit and had filled their side on the top with corrugated iron and a slab of cement over the top of the empty pit. We filled and built a brick pilot to support the cement platform as the corrugated iron had rusted and was at risk of collapsing.

The neighbours were told an estimate of making this pit safe and were concerned but supported it being made safe all except the one landlord owner.

We presented the bill to the company managing the body corporation, as given these contact details by one of the owners. Firstly we were told that this company knew all about it and would pay in two weeks. This went on with staff changing and now is six months since sending the bill. We now have been told that three out of the five are willing to pay and recently that only one person has made their share of payment.

We still have not received any payment and their share amounts to $4,200. What can we do?

By anon357350 — On Dec 03, 2013

Being the president and general counsel for a medium sized land surveying and engineering firm, I take exception to one of your statements. The primary reason for constructed encroachments is not a "bad survey", but the reluctance of the landowner to pay for a survey. The landowner then proceeds with construction, believing they can safely do so without the benefit of a survey.

By jct59 — On Oct 04, 2013

I bought my home in May, 2012. My house is a city semi-detached. On the attached side, my home is at least 6 to 8 feet longer than the neighboring home. My foundation juts out in the neighbor's direction about a foot. Someone (I suspect the renters next door) took my foundation apart over the last summer. My insurance company wants me to have my home surveyed before they will pay to get it fixed. Are there no laws that say my foundation was here, and should be allowed to be here? My home is 100 years old. I live in PA. Thanks for any help.

By anon342386 — On Jul 20, 2013

I live in a council property and put in for the right to buy. When I moved in, the deceased neighbours had been given permission by the old tenant in my house to use part of her land for two garages. Since then, he has died and new owners have moved in. One garage is only left up now, and I park my car on the land the garage was on, sometimes but have always maintained the hedge and land (but they now rent the property).

The council has been out to value my home and have hit a brick wall, since on the plans, the land belongs to me. It is quite a bit of land, but she not sure if I will get the land. Is this true? My house leads to a garage site which means me and numerous others have been paying rent for a garage, but this man hasn't. Is that allowed?

By anon329892 — On Apr 12, 2013

My neighbor has built a shed that we just recently learned is 4 feet over on my property. How do I approach this with these neighbors?

By anon323392 — On Mar 05, 2013

I just had an engineered survey done and found that the town I live mistakenly placed a public alley on a section of my land. They also placed underground sewer mains under the same portion due to no survey on their part when making the above improvements to the subdivision.

They tell me that they will not move the alley or the underground sewer main because it will cost them too much money. What are my rights to have them move the above?

By anon323052 — On Mar 03, 2013

The owner of the property adjoining mine has built a private lake that has flooded part of my property. What can I do now that the damage has been done?

By anon321329 — On Feb 22, 2013

I am the owner of a 211 square meter lot, which is 1/4 of about a 900 square meter lot. The LGU required a 3.5 square meter right of way when the mother lot was subdivided.

The owner of the lot before mine (which is closer to the access road) built a concrete house the wall of which encroached about .78 square meters on the right of way. He refuses to budge, claiming that he can have the right of way closed if he chose to because he practically owns the whole quarter lot and just donated the portion (1.75 square meters) for the right of way. Is it legally possible for him to take back his supposed donation?

By anon319838 — On Feb 15, 2013

The council has put iron posts and big block stones, partly stopping me getting my car in and out of my garden garage. They serve no purpose whatsoever. What rights do I have to get them removed?

By anon314900 — On Jan 20, 2013

My neighbors decided four years ago to build a wood deck two inches from the cyclone fence that divides our properties (the house was a single house, converted into two twins) that was there when we moved in 30 years ago. In our town, you have to get a permit to do the work and also have any surrounding neighbors who can see the structure you want erected sign off that it is okay for you to build.

The guy who built the deck next door is a contractor, whose brother is also a contractor on the town borough's board. Because of the brother on the board, they allowed him to move forward with the building of the deck, without a permit, until we confronted the borough about the structure being two inches away from the property line (it has to be at least 12 inches, I think) and we were told that he had told them we said it was okay for him to build the deck where he did. We never said it was okay for him to build anything, let alone that deck.

Due to them building the deck right on top of the property fence, all of their trash and debris blow right into our yard, and the only thing we see when we look outside during the spring/summer now is all of them sitting on the deck and because their deck has a wooden roof on top, it blocks our view from that side altogether.

I'm just wondering, since we followed all the protocol we could find from our side of things four years ago, and we were basically told to back off and stand down and that was done was done, do we have any rights? It seems it's all in who you know these days, because had it been us, we would've been forced to knock down what we had built and moved it back out to what our town states as being allowed without permission of the surrounding properties and neighbors. In the past, we have had work done and had town officials showing up for proof of permits and licenses and had this same neighbor complain to the borough about our garage and were threatened with a fine if we didn't repair it or tear it down, but they wouldn't let us tear it down without a permit and they wouldn't approve the permit until almost the deadline. I feel the problems we've had have been directly related to our neighbor's brother being on the board of our town.

I think it's a ridiculous twisting of the rules to find loopholes in the system, that officials are letting their family and friends in on to take advantage of the law abiding neighbors who aren't being fed all the bylines, rules and information to cheat people out of their property. Thanks so much!

By anon305197 — On Nov 25, 2012

A builder encroached over our property line and caused a dirt collapse which exposed gas, electrical, water lines and a window well. He also caused damage to several bushes and a newly planted juniper. We have called the engineer and he arrived at our home with an inspector. He told the superintendent the backhoe digger caused a safety hazard to the gas line and they needed to remedy it.

The superintendent did a temporary fill in and braced the lot walls with plywood and foundation forms. He told us he would get back with us on other repairs. He also stated he needed to watch out for the safety of his crew. A few days ago, he was back to install a sewer system. We have not talked to or seen him since.

By anon300556 — On Oct 30, 2012

Maintaining property and claiming it by encroachment is thieving and a sin in the bible.

By anon287605 — On Aug 26, 2012

My next door neighbor's lean-to roof comes over the fence between us and hangs over on my side. It discharges all its rain water on the path outside my back door. Please, could someone help me on my rights? -- Tony

By anon271658 — On May 27, 2012

I just found out a developer is buying the 5 acres behind our house and says that there is an encroachment by us. It is part of the backyard which we have been mowing for 31 years.

This also makes the plan of his project of an old age home, much closer to our house if he follows the original property line. He has not signed the deed to the land yet. Does the encroachment have to be dealt with before the sale is complete? And does the prospective buyer have to make a formal complaint of encroachment before we do something about it?

By anon261656 — On Apr 16, 2012

I just found out that I am renting a house that is not even found by the post office. They say it's not registered or does not have a permit. Can that be true? What do I do?

By anon261316 — On Apr 15, 2012

The property beside us is vacant. We currently mow the property and have for the past year. Our major concern is that there is a pond that, with a heavy rain, washes out our driveway. The actual caretaker of the property is not willing to mow or maintain the pond. Is there anything that we can do to make this happen or obtain this property?

By anon254845 — On Mar 14, 2012

We bought a house and acre on a road that is privately owned by what's called an association of two guys and there are a few houses on the road.

The problem is they say we are not allowed to drive down the road in spring because the road is so bad. Can they stop us by saying they can lease out our house and that they will have another assessment done to our place, but what all does this mean?

By surfmomma — On Feb 20, 2012

Is it considered encroachment if you are building a cantilevered deck that extends over a property boundary but does not touch the ground? The deck hangs in the air above the ground. The deck does extend over a property boundary, but the ground below the deck is open and can be walked on.

By anon202124 — On Aug 01, 2011

I just had my lot surveyed and found my neighbor's four foot high retaining wall almost 3 ft. on my property. My question is how do I handle this and keep the peace? --David

By anon141007 — On Jan 09, 2011

We have new neighbors who are in the process of getting approval for a new addition to their home. The survey that was done by both of us shows the corner markers between the properties. A fence between our properties was put in by the previous neighbor and had been put in before either of us bought our properties.

It is clear, in my opinion, the fence was placed on our property in many places, including at the beginning and at the end, as you can see the monument markers.

What can I do to clearly and legally show that they are building too close to the property line as between the markers they are using the fence as a property line?

What can I do to keep my neighbors' run off from his room as it will clearly drain onto our property? Does a survey show the house location from the foundation or the roof overhang?

By pperry62 — On Nov 15, 2010

I live in Connecticut. I purchased my childhood home which my parents owned for over 37 years. I have owned it now for over five years. The question I have is we have been maintaining a section of the town's property about .02 acre which they (town) have abandoned and not taking care of the property since I was a child.

To this date I still maintain it and moved my fence out (encroachment) to that part that I maintained. My question is, isn't there a law when someone maintains another's property for so many years it becomes that person's possession? This is what I am now facing with the town.

Would love to hear your professional opinion on this matter. Thank you.

By anon114221 — On Sep 27, 2010

I just had an engineered survey done and found that the town I live mistakenly placed a public alley on a section of my land. They also placed underground sewer mains under the same portion due to no survey on their part when making the above improvements to the subdivision. They tell me that they will not move the alley or the underground sewer main because it will cost them to much money. What are my rights to have them move the above?

By anon105674 — On Aug 21, 2010

I trimmed a bush that was a safety hazard for pulling out onto the main road and almost had several wrecks there. Also, the disabled man next door almost got hit because he could not see to pull onto the road in his golf cart, so I asked the people who owned the bush to trim it.

Then, two weeks later, I trimmed the bush standing in the road. It hung over the mail boxes and the mail lady could not see either. is this county property from the street sign to the main road? If so, can they get me for criminal mischief? they are trying to.

By anon105286 — On Aug 19, 2010

My neighbor's driveway lies four inches on my property line. In the city I live in, there is supposed to be 10 feet of greenland between the two properties. It's been 14 years since I built my home. Is there anything I can do about the encroachment now?

By anon75692 — On Apr 07, 2010

I have a situation where my neighbor has "parked" an unsightly camper within approximately two feet of my property line - this is only part of the problem. The camper is being used by him as a "view" breaker or fence for privacy. It is parked next to my double windows in my bedroom. Needless to say, this is all I see when I open my blinds.

Our town has no ordinance to mandate him to move this nuisance. Talking or communicating with my neighbors is not possible. Is there anything or any hope for this situation? Thanks.

By anon42588 — On Aug 22, 2009

The encroachment by my neighbor consists of feeding water runoff onto my property by a directed hose and pump, cutting six of my trees off at the trunks, pushing dirt and stones onto my property with a backhoe vehicle, and excavating 3.5 feet into my property. He claims he is not using my property as your definition (fences, shrubbery) indicate. Where is a definition that covers his type of encroachment of my property or is there another term to use? Three surveys correctly display the property line to support the neighbor's encroachment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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