What to do about an allegation of encroachment?

UPDATED: Jan 9, 2011

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What to do about an allegation of encroachment?

Approximately, 13 years ago we built a fence and shed on what my neighbor and I agreed was the property line. Now however, my neighbor had the land surveyed and much to my surprise, the fence is on their property. Consequently, they are suing us for $10,000.  They are insisting that they had requested we move it the whole time – which is an absolute lie. The first that we ever heard of their problem with the fence was after the survey. Can someone profit off of a few inches of land?

Asked on January 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

You need to speak with a real estate lawyer to see if there are any grounds--such as that the neighbor allowed you to building the fence and shed on that land--under which you can escape liability. You might also want to have the land resurveyed, compare their survey to any you already have, etc.--you don't need to accept their survey at face value. In answer to your question--yes, if you take someone's land, even innocently, you are liable for that, and they may be able to sue you for damages and/or to move the encroachment. Consider: suppose that a plot is 120' x 60' and that the assessed land value is $120,000 (I'm suing northern NJ values here; not sure about your area.) If someone incroaches by 3' along the whole length, they've encroached for 1/20 of the land; 1/20th of $120k would be $6k right there, without any other costs or damages.

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