There’s an old Irish saying that “Good fences make good neighbors.” However, a fence erected in the wrong spot can be a nightmare for property owners — and so can other boundary disputes. If your neighbor is encroaching on your property rights in some way, here’s how to handle it.
1. Approach your neighbor early.
The longer you wait to handle the situation, the more entrenched the issue can become. If, for example, you see your neighbor measuring or starting to dig post holes for a new fence, it’s best to discuss the boundary line between your properties before the fence gets built. Your neighbor is more likely to be receptive to what you’re saying before he or she has to go to any additional expense (and moving that fence can be costly).
2. Remember that civility helps.
Don’t walk into the dispute assuming that your neighbor is doing anything intentionally wrong. Most likely, your neighbor assumes that he or she is entitled to whatever is causing the dispute. A sympathetic approach that doesn’t make your neighbor feel reproached or attacked is more likely to be productive.
3. Consider a mediated solution.
You may be overlooking some possible alternatives to your problem with your neighbor. If your neighbor is dead-set against moving the offending fence, you may be able to negotiate an agreement for the neighbor to purchase a foot or two of property around the fence from you. It may be a win-win solution. Mediators can also help both parties understand all the available options.
If these efforts fail, you may have to ultimately pursue litigation to protect your property rights — but it’s usually wiser to try to find a solution outside of court.