Q: Our neighbor built a fence last year that was 31″ over the property line onto our land. As we live in Maryland, we did not find out about the fence until we were in Virginia this summer to check on our tenants who live on the property.

I personally asked our neighbor to move the fence back to their property line and was told to get a lawyer. I then sent these neighbors a letter but received no response. I had a boundary survey done to prove that their fence is located 31″ over the property line.

I do not wish to grant them a license to leave the fence on our property. Do I need to engage a lawyer to force them to move their fence back or can I take down the fence by myself? If I incur legal fees or contract labor to remove the fence, can I recoup my expenses thru small claims court in Virginia or do I need to file a separate lawsuit to get my money back?

A: I would talk to a local attorney and ask him or her about what the process should be with regard to dealing with this neighbor.

Clearly, you have the facts on your side. You’ve nicely asked the neighbor to move the fence, and they’ve decided to ignore you — perhaps because they’re embarrassed and perhaps because they don’t really want to go through the expense or an annoyance of moving the fence or they just want to keep the fence there to suit their needs.

The attorney can advise you whether he or she should first send a more formal letter, whether you might have to sue the neighbor in small claims court to get a judgment against your neighbor, or whether you can simply hire someone to tear down the fence.

Although this fence is on your property, you’ll want to make sure you’re not running afoul of any local rules or regulations before you tear it down.

Nov. 14, 2008.