Q: Our neighbor’s pets and pre-school kids wander on our lot, taking things and destroying them with no supervision or discipline offered.
When we asked our neighbors to control their pets and children, they threaten us and began harassing us over our shared lot line.
In order to put an end to it, we ordered a survey. Once the survey was done, we put up a fence to keep them as far from us as possible.
Here’s where it gets tricky. The survey proved that according to our deed and theirs, the line between us is 38 feet closer to their house than they were trying to claim. Naturally we lost as much land on our south side as we gained on our north. Everyone’s lot line is off by that amount.
Today, they had the same surveyor we used measure out their lot. It went that same amount of distance to their north as they lost on their south side.
They’re not arguing the findings of the survey, but were told by their neighbor on the other side of their property that she is not giving up any of her lot and since she’s owned it for well over 20 years. She says she could claim it by adverse possession, as it has been fenced in with her lot since before she bought it.
So they came to me asking me to move my fence to give them back some of what they lost on our side. I explained that had they been civil from the onset we might have been willing to compromise, but since we felt threatened by them to the point of obtaining a survey and building a fence, I will not comply with their request.
They’ve owned their property less than a year. Since none of us really knew where the lot line was, (including the people we both bought from) and the survey was done according to our legal descriptions, are we under any obligation to give up any of our lot to them?
After my survey I contacted both my township and county zoning offices and they told me I could put my fence right along the line since it had been surveyed. I’m not asking for anything more than what is legally mine, and if that keeps them a few feet farther from us, all the better.
I hate fighting with neighbors, but don’t like being bullied either. So what is the right thing to do?
A: Your letter is a good example of how one unneighborly act can bring untold years of anguish — on both sides. Had your neighbors been more neighborly, and complied when you asked them to control their pets and children, none of this would have happened.
That said, you would have to consult a real estate attorney as to the legalities of your situation, but it would seem to me that you should be under no obligation to move your fence. On the other hand, the woman who lives on the other side of your unneighborly neighbor might well have to move hers.
Although the land has been fenced in for more than 20 years, she has not been paying taxes on the property. She has been paying taxes on her own acreage. To acquire land by adverse possession, there are various requirements that must be met by a property owner. Just because the woman claims she owns the land doesn’t mean it is true. But neither of us have enough information to know whether she has met the requirements.
Your unneighborly neighbors could sue her to remove the fence, but that’s not your concern. You have surveyed your property and received permission to put up a fence. You’ve now let the world know where your lot lines are and if your neighbors don’t like it, well, too bad for them. They can deal with the other neighbor.
Jan. 9, 2008.
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