Q: My neighbor says his land goes right up to the side of the house I am renting. The neighbor’s house on the other side is so close you can’t really walk through the space between our homes. I can’t get my push lawn mower to the other side of the house to mow and the garbage is picked up in the alleyway behind all our houses.
For me to get from one side of the house to the other I have to load stuff in my car and drive around the block. Without paying for a surveyor, how can I find out where the property lines are to the home and whether I can use that strip of land to go from the back of the property to the front?
The owner of the house I am renting doesn’t care at all either so I need some advice.
A: It’s not very neighborly of that person to prohibit you from using that strip of land to get from the back of the house to the front. Unfortunately, there are bad neighbors everywhere.
You might have some luck trying to determine where your property lines are by going to your village, town or city hall office. In some cases, your municipality may have a copy of a survey if the owner of the home has done work on the property recently that required a survey. If you see the survey, that survey might indicate the distance from the home you live in to the edge of your property.
If you find out that the neighbor is right and his land goes up to the edge of the house you are renting, you would have to see if you can work something out with that neighbor to let you use that strip of land. You can offer to mow the strip of land as you go from the back to the front. You can try whatever kind neighborly act you can muster to see if he is willing to allow you to pass.
If he is unwilling to allow you to pass, the only other way to determine if you have the legal right to pass is if there is an easement between the properties that would allow you to use that land. Once again, you might have to take a trip to your local governmental office that accepts documents for recording to see if an easement exists. You might be able to do the research online. In some states these records are online and you can look up your property and see if there are any easements.
If you don’t see any easements online for the property, your recorder of deeds office or clerk’s office will have the records for your property. If you find an easement, you’d have to figure out if that easement is one that gives you the right of access. If the document does exist and gives you the right of access, you’d have your legal right to use the land, but your neighbor could still be a rotten neighbor and cause trouble for you.
If you don’t find an easement that can help you out, you might have to talk to a real estate attorney to see if there is a law that would allow you to use that strip of land. In some urban areas, some cities have passes ordinances that allow neighbors limited access to their neighbor’s yard for repair and maintenance issues in and around their homes. While you may find an ordinance like that, you might still want to see what you can do to work it out with the neighbor.
Just because the ordinance exists and you decide to exercise your rights under the ordinance, doesn’t mean that living next to that neighbor will be much fun. It would be better for you to try to work it out amicably than to cause a volatile situation between neighbors which can result in you having all sorts of other problems down the line.