Everything is good in the neighborhood, and then the folks next door build a new garage on what you believe is your property. What do you do? Actually, you have several options; and some are less painful than others. Things can be worked out, but you will need to take some sort of action.
Talk Things Over
If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, grab a copy of your deed and go talk to them. Usually, the deeds will give you enough information to figure out exactly where the property lines are. If you still cannot tell where the boundaries are or if you disagree, you will need to hire a land surveying professional to set the record straight. With luck, you can get your neighbor to split the cost, but if not, you still need to have it done.
If your neighbor has encroached on your land, things still do not have to get ugly. If your neighbors have already started their construction project on your property, you may still be able to find a solution. You might agree to sell a piece of your property to them, providing that you own your land or that your mortgage company will agree to the sale. You might also just let the encroachment stand. You can either give written permission for your neighbor to use your land or you can have an informal agreement. However, if you or your neighbor decides to sell your respective properties, problems can arise from an informal agreement. The new owners may not want to deal with a potentially complicated situation. They may also not be able to get a mortgage until the issue is resolved.
Take Legal Action
If you end up going to court, you may be surprised at the results. Although a judge might order the encroachment removed, he or she might also grant a prescriptive easement, which allows your neighbor to legally use your land. Of course, an easement is usually granted when the property use by your neighbor has been going on unchallenged for years. A prescriptive easement can lower the value of your property, so prompt settlement of any boundary issues is recommended.
Clearly established boundary lines will help keep you and your neighbors on good terms. If you are unsure of where the lines are, consider having your land surveyed now before someone encroaches on your property.