For many of us, our house and property are two of the most important things in our lives. It's where you lay your head at night, raise a family and build a lifetime of memories. Most Americans don't have much trouble from their neighbors, but a bothersome neighbor could take more than your sanity if you don't pay attention to your boundary lines.
One would think putting up a fence isn't too big of a deal, but many states have a plethora of laws on the books concerning fencing from the numerous complaints brought before judges by quarrelsome neighbors.
Often, one neighbor will opt to put up a fence on what they believe is their property. Sadly, many property disputes between neighbors arise from a misunderstanding of where property lines may be. Other disputes arise from the condition of fences being erected, their height and other factors that have been covered by state and local laws.
Many established property lines around New York were made using basic tools and markers hundreds of years ago, so often there are some discrepancies between common thought of where a boundary is and where it should be.
What is Adverse Possession?
Building structures near boundary lines can become precarious if the lines are not clearly defined between the two parties. In the case of Estate of Becker v. Murtagh, 19 N.Y.3d 75, 81, 968 N.E.2d 433, 437 (NY 2012), one party built a dock on what they believed to be their property, but found out many years later it was built on the neighbor's land when they sold their home to new owners.
The constructors of the dock attempted to reclaim that land from their neighbor through a process known as Adverse Possession. In New York, there are some criteria that must be met to claim adverse possession:
- The adverse possessor must have an open and public claim to the land, meaning the landowner must be aware of the AP's presence.
- An adverse possessor must have occupied the land in question for a period no shorter than 10 years.
- The adverse possessors claim to the land must be in conflict with that of the land owner's. So, if the landowner lets someone stay on their land, they cannot claim it as their own.
- An adverse possessor must be the sole claimant of the land in question during the 10-year period
- This 10-year period must be consecutive and unbroken.
Preventing Adverse Possession
So what can you do to prevent having your neighbor encroach on your land?
It begins as simply as checking up on your lands periodically to see not one has constructed anything during your absence. If you have a neighbor who you allow to use your land, make sure you have that permission in writing to show the court in the event you have to protect your property.
If you have any further questions about property disputes or have a neighbor you think is taking your land, call us today to start protecting what's yours.