When you face aundary line dispute with a neighbor, it is recommended that you immediately consult with a boundary dispute lawyer before engaging in any action. Boundary disputes can be expensive, so it is better to know your legal rights and remedies before moving forward.
General laws on fences and boundary lines in New York
In New York, adjoining property owners must make and maintain a just and equitable portion of the division fence unless they both agree to keep their lands open to each other for their animals to graze on. If a neighbor builds a fence that is 10 feet high for the purpose of excluding the other adjacent land from enjoying light or air, such neighbor may be sued for private nuisance. A neighbor can trim branches of a tree on another neighbor’s land, for as long as such branch extends into his property and such trimming of branches does not damage the tree. Damaging the tree can cause the neighbor to be liable for triple damages.
Current fence or boundary line disputes in New York
Today, most boundary disputes among neighbors in New York revolve around encroachments and easements.
An encroachment occurs when another person (usually a neighbor) builds something on land they don’t own (usually on the property of the adjacent land). Encroachment can be serious issue, especially when what has been built is of a permanent structure. When you allow an encroachment of a permanent structure to continue for at least ten continuous years, your neighbor’s encroachment can ripen into ownership through adverse possession. Since 2008, de minimis acts of possession, such as the construction of fences, hedges, shrubbery, plantings, and shed, do not ripen into legal title under adverse possession.
An easement, on the other hand, is a grant to another person (or the public) of a nonpossessory property interest over your land. It grants another person the legal right to use your land for a particular purpose. One example of an easement is an easement of right of way granting another person the right to use your land as a pathway or road to another person’s property without actually conferring ownership. to pass through in order to get to his land. Another type of easement is a utility easement which grants a utility a right to use your land for a particular purpose, such as installing or constructing, operating and maintaining electric, water, and sewer lines and equipment, gas, telephone, fiber optic, and other above or below ground utilities. Easements can be granted by law or by agreement. Today, disputes about easement arise from agreements executed decades ago granting previous property owners over the land an easement. Most issues relate to the uses and limitations of such easement on the owner of the property.
Examples of boundary and easement disputes
Most boundaries between neighbors have already been identified and delineated in land maps and surveys. However, the measuring tools used decades before may be less inaccurate. Your neighbor might have requested a new survey which shows his new boundaries, which would appear to overlap with your boundaries. When this happens, you may have a boundary line dispute with your neighbor. When he asks you to sign an acknowledgement regarding his boundaries, it’s better not to sign anything because this might also have possible repercussions with your existing mortgage with the bank, if there is any. It is best to consult a lawyer before agreeing or signing anything.
Easement disputes also occur when the easement holder (also known as the dominant estate owner) uses the property covered by the easement for a use that is not permitted. For example, an easement has been granted to your neighbor to use a part of your property to pass through to get to his land. Aside from using it in this way, the neighbor starts planting trees and building a tool shed on the easement. This can result to a boundary dispute between neighbors.
Legal disputes regarding boundaries and easements can be expensive to litigate. It is important to always try to settle amicably. In case you want to engage in any action, such as constructing a fence or a gate that interferes with one’s use of an easement, it is wise to seek the advice of a lawyer. Even if you are constructing something on your property, you may still be liable for damages if it interferes with someone’s use of the easement.
If you have property issues and boundary disputes, the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.