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What do I do if my neighbor built on my land?

On Behalf of | May 18, 2022 | Uncategorized

Property ownership is important to many Florida residents. It is a sign that they are independent, vigilant and do not answer to anyone regarding their land. Still, very few people live in areas where they own the entire property without adjoining pieces of land owned by neighbors. Whether it is a small plot or a large one, disputes between neighbors are unfortunately common.

One that happens quite frequently involves boundary disputes. If a person believes their property is being infringed upon by a neighbor building on their property, it can escalate into a legal dispute. While it can make people uncomfortable to engage in a legal case with their neighbors, it is important to protect their property rights within the confines of the law.

The main legal challenges with adjoining property in Florida

It is critical to understand the legal issues that might arise with adjoining property and if a neighbor builds on land without approval. The neighbor might commit encroachment beyond what is theirs. As the term suggests, encroaching means violating the boundaries by going past what they are legally allowed to do.

An example might be a person building a fence and extending it onto the neighbor’s land. Or it might be the construction of a garage. It could be any type of structure. The key is whether the neighbor went past their own property and violated the limits based on what is theirs. The deed of the property will state clearly what they own and what the neighbor owns. Violating that can present a problem.

People who see a neighbor doing construction of a fence or other structure and believe it is infringing on their land should tell them in writing that they are violating the law and it should be removed. The type of boundary is important in these situations.

If it was a “boundary by agreement” – even if the fence or other structure encroaches on the land – they might say it was agreed to and therefore it is legal. People can use this defense if they are unsure as to where the boundary is; if there was a previous agreement as to the boundary; or if there was occupation of the boundary based on the agreement and it suggested the sides had conceded the point.

“Boundary by acquiescence” is another way in which the neighbor can say they are legally allowed to build. This could stem from a lack of certainty or disagreement as to where the boundary line is and the sides occupying and acquiescing to a line that is not the true boundary but went beyond the statute of limitations or lasted for more than seven years.

People might not be completely aware or concerned about their boundaries and potential encroachments until the neighbor starts building on their land. The structure could be considered aesthetically displeasing, hinder a view, be potentially dangerous or the person simply does not want it on their property.

Property owners may need help dealing with real estate boundary issues

Owning land is a significant responsibility. It must be maintained, repaired and current on its legal requirements. If a neighbor is violating the law and building on a person’s land, they must be fully aware of their options. In some cases, discussing it rationally can help find an acceptable solution. In others, people are either unaware of the limitations, they disagree with them or they outright violate the law and build anyway.

Whether it is residential or business property, it is important to be fully protected and to take the necessary steps to settle the matter. Real estate law can be complex and when there is a back and forth between neighbors it can grow contentious and make the relationship worse. This can spark a battle over boundaries and make the prospect of settling it amicably harder to navigate. To try and address the matter as efficiently as possible, it is essential to have qualified and experienced assistance that understands state law and uses a comprehensive and team-based approach to forge a positive outcome.