It can be very distressing to discover a neighbor has built a fence on your land. Whatever you do, don’t overreact. There are steps you can take to get relief.
Note that this isn’t legal advice. We’re fence contractors, not lawyers!
However, this situation is pretty common, and we often hear these kinds of questions. These situations are also why we work as hard as we do to make sure we’re complying with all laws, property surveys, and ordinances every time we build a fence.
First, get a survey done. It’s a good idea to make absolutely sure that you’ve been wronged before you start making accusations and taking steps.
If you do discover the fence really is on your property line, make sure that you stay calm. Do not, for example, try to tear down the fence yourself.
Tearing down the fence yourself means you’ll be damaging your neighbors property. It can really muddy the waters when you go to seek recourse – courts really don’t like it when people try to take the law into their own hands, and two wrongs don’t make a right.
It’s better to get help from a real estate attorney. You’ll be able to explore the options and remedies that are available to you.
Sometimes a well-worded letter from an attorney is all that it takes to get the matter resolved. In other cases, the dispute may well have to go to court before it can be resolved.
If the case is decided in your favor you can typically get the fence removed. Sometimes you can recover some of your legal costs, too.
If it’s not decided in your favor, at least you won’t have opened yourself up to a lawsuit by smashing up your neighbor’s fence! This is another good reason why you should use legal remedies rather than taking matters into your own hands.
You should definitely not ignore the situation. If you do ignore the situation your property lines could eventually be redrawn to give your neighbor ownership of the additional land if you do.
Of course, if you build a fence you’ll want to protect yourself from accusations that you are building the fence on your neighbor’s property, since such an accusation can prove costly and stressful to you as well.