What can be done about a trespassing neighbor?

My mother owns land but has been living away in a different state. While she has been away, a man living on the next parcel of land has been selling her hay and has been keeping all the money, the amount of $1000 per year for the last 19 years a lot of money for a women in her 80’s. This same man has cut a trench across my mother’s land without any permission rendering that part of the land useless. Can that man be taken to court over these obvious illegal activities and can my mom expect to recoup the income loss that man has been taking from her?

Asked on October 19, 2015 under Real Estate Law, New Mexico

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, he can be sued, and your mother can potentially recover the cost to repair the land e.g. restore the trench and to recover several years of the value of the hay. The problem is, you can only sue for losses which occured within the statute of limitations, or time period within which you must sue. If you wait too long to sue for a loss, the law does not let you sue for or recover it. It appears that the relevant statute of limitations in your state is no more than four years, so your mother can most likely only recover four years worth of lost hay. Another problem is that the cost of a laywer would eat substantially into what your mother might recover or get back, so in theory, the best way to sue would be for your mother to act as her own attorney "pro se" in small claims court--but doing so may not be very practical for an 80+ year old woman. Note the law will not let you represent or sue for your mother unless you are an attorney yourself.


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