CanI be made to move a 20 year-old fence because it is approximately 1inch onto my neighbor’s property?

I have an existing wooden fence that was installed by the previous owners well over 15-20+ years ago. The installation pre-dates both myself and my neighbor’s ownership of our properties. I just had our property line re-surveyed and found that the my existing 15-20+ year old fence is either on or an inch or two over the newly surveyed boundary line. Can my neighbor force me to remove the fence that is inches over the line, even though it was there before either of us brought our properties and on both of our location surveys show the fence inside my property line?

Asked on July 26, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, if the fence is truly on your neighbors property, yes, he probably can force you to move it. A property owner's right of control over his  property, particularly over improvements built on it, is essentially absolute.

However, (1) surveys are not necessarily exact to the inch  (or always consistent, from one survey to another), so it's possible that on a factual basis, the fence could be shown to be on your land (or rather; that if the neighbor tries to force you to move the fence, he may be unable to show that it's on his land by the appropriate degree of proof or evidence); or (2) it's possible you could work something out with you neighbor, such as paying for the right to keep the fence on his land. If you end up in conflict with your neighbor on this, consult with a real estate attorney to see your options.

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