Encroachment is when a property owner puts up a structure on your land.

What is encroachment?

Encroachment is a violation of the property rights of a property owner. When a property owner builds or extends a structure on a neighbor’s land or property, he or she is said to be encroaching on the neighbor’s territory.

Encroachment may or may not be intentional. Unintentional encroachment occurs when the property owner is not aware of his or her property line. A property line is an imaginary line that defines where one person’s property ends, and the neighboring land begins. If the property survey on the home is invalid, the property owner may inadvertently encroach on his neighbor’s territory.

It is worth noting that even if someone infringes on your property, you cannot take matters into your own hands by destroying the encroachment. It is usually recommended to try to resolve matters peacefully and amicably before bringing the issue to court.

Is this an issue when you buy a home?

It is generally not recommended to purchase a home with an encroachment. If you are buying a house with an encroachment issue, you are willingly assuming the risk associated with it. Encroachment disputes may have both legal and financial implications.

Minor encroachments typically do not affect the main house. Instead, it may include a fence, a doghouse, a garden, or a portable outdoor shed. These usually can be amicably resolved between neighbors without involving the courts.

On the other hand, major encroachments are typically part of the house or attached building, such as a detached garage. These have more financial implications and may result in a court-ordered removal of the structure.

It is advisable for homebuyers to do their due diligence and obtain a detailed property survey before buying a house to avoid any disputes after. Property surveys explicitly show the boundaries of the land, dictate the lot size as well as include a description of the property. You’ll likely want this information before you carry out any renovations or build any additions, such as a fence.

Encroachment vs. Easement

Property surveys will also show the easement on your survey map. An easement is your neighbor’s right to cross or use your land for a specified purpose. For instance, your neighbor may have the right to walk across your yard to access the street.

Easements are legal, agreed upon by all parties, and may even involve compensation for the property owner. However, encroachment is unauthorized use of your neighbor’s land and is illegal, whether or not it was intentional. As a result, encroachment may result in the property owner granting an easement for compensation. Alternatively, disputes may also be taken to civil court.