“Encroachment” is a real estate term that refers to one property owner essentially “invading” the space of another. The best way to understand the term is to envision a line in the sand.
On one side of the line lies your property, while on the other lies your neighbor’s. Whether you plant your foot on the other side or simply reach your arm into your neighbor’s space, if you do so without permission, you are encroaching on his or her property. Encroachment is illegal and could result in a lawsuit.
Two types of encroachment
According to Million Acres, A Motley Fool Service, you may become the victim to one of two types of encroachment. The first is trespass. A neighbor may commit trespass encroachment if he or she invades your physical space. An example of trespass would be if your neighbor builds a fence on your side of the property line, or if he or she places a shed on your land.
The second type of encroachment is nuisance. A “nuisance” refers to an encroachment that extends into the airspace above your property. For instance, that law may consider a tree that’s limbs spread out over your backyard or a garage that casts a shadow over your pool a nuisance.
The problem with encroachments
The problem with encroachments, even if they do not bother you, is that they may result in adverse possession. If you allow your neighbor to encroach on your property continually and for years, he or she may be able to claim rights to your property through adverse possession. Even if your neighbor does not attempt to gain legal rights to your property, your lack of action may lead to an easement. An easement grants your neighbor the right to use a specific portion of your property for a specific purpose. While neither adverse possession nor an easement may seem serious to you, either could adversely affect the resale value of your home.
Encroachment almost always starts out innocently enough, and it oftentimes stays that way. However, when it becomes more flagrant, there are actions you may be able to take in the interest of your property.