Living in close proximity to your neighbors can be a wonderful experience. It can mean summers of shared barbeques, help and advice with your yard work and people to count on in the case of an emergency. Yet, living in close proximity to your neighbors can also lead to disputes. Some common situations that lead to disputes among neighbors include, maintaining shared fences or boundaries, construction on a home that restricts a neighbor’s view, property encroachment and loud or obnoxious behavior. Let’s consider each of these situations and your legal options if you find yourself involved in any of these scenarios.
Fence or Common Boundary Disputes
If a fence or other boundary wall is to be built on the property of more than one landowner then it is a best to practice to put an agreement in writing. The agreement should cover things such as maintenance and repairs so that the parties are clear as to their responsibilities. If a dispute arises then it the agreement may become useful and legally enforceable. If no such agreement was made then a court may consider the parties’ past behavior with regard to maintenance and repairs and what is fair given the location of the fence.
A view easement, or a scenic easement, is designed to protect a neighbor’s view. The best way to protect the view from your property is to purchase a view easement from your neighbor. The easement becomes a right that is associated with your property and adds value to your property. If the neighbor tries to build or otherwise disrupt your view then you have a legal claim against the neighbor. In the absence of an easement view your rights usually depend on local ordinances. You do not have the right to prevent your neighbor from building, even if it will diminish your view and property value, unless the local ordinances limit the property owner’s right to build or the construction violates your easement.
Property Encroachment or Trespassing
Your neighbors do not have any special entitlements to encroach upon or trespass on your property. Unless your neighbors hold legal easements for the use of your land then they do not have any greater right than anyone else to be on your property uninvited.
Property owners have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their property. That means that they should be able to use their property without interference from others. When deciding if a neighbor’s actions violate a property owner’s right to quiet enjoyment courts typically consider the duration of the neighbor’s actions, the reason for the actions and the impact or burden on the property owner. It is important to keep a log of the behavior that you find to be a nuisance and your attempts to resolve the behavior before addressing the matter in court.
Remember that, that unless one of you chooses to move, you and your neighbor will be living in close proximity to one another after your dispute has been resolved. Therefore, it is usually in your best interest to work things out as amicably as possible while protecting your property and your rights.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.