Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Neighbors built onto our property.

Our previous neighbors built onto our property, and have blocked access to one side of our home. Since then new neighbors have moved in, and now it is completely impossible to access this side. How would we go about getting our property back?

Asked on 12/20/05, 12:21 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Carl Starrett Law Offices of Carl H. Starrett II

Re: Neighbors built onto our property.

You should consult with a local real estate attorney right away. A lot depends on how long the encroachment has existed and why you didn't do anything before now.

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Answered on 12/20/05, 12:42 pm

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Neighbors built onto our property.

I think the first step is a discussion with the new didn't say whether this has been done, or their attitude toward the problem, but neighbors or family members (and for that matter almost anyone facing a possible lawsuit situation) should try negotiation as a first step.

The next step may be to verify the location of the property line by survey. With modern instruments, surveys to verify property lines are easier and cheaper, and especially in an urban or suburban setting, should be quick and affordable. Further, if the matter is litigated, survey evidence and/or surveyor testimony may be needed.

If a survey confirms that there is an encroachment, and the new neighbor is unsympathetic about doing something about it, that's when you'll need a real-estate lawyer. The lawyer will review the facts and determine whether the proper action to bring is for quiet title, trespass, ejectment, or some combination of causes of action.

If the neighbor defends, possible defenses include adverse possession, prescriptive easement and easement by estoppel. The last of these is an equitable principle that relates to the relative hardship of removing an encroachment that was created over time, while the encroached-upon owner sat back and let the encroaching neighbor build and spend his way into a situation that could have been avoided by speaking up. The prior two defenses are forms of the statute of limitations, saying, in effect, that after five years it may be too late to go to court to remove a trespasser in some circumstances. If the fifth anniversary of the trespass is close at hand, you should bypass the negotiating and survey steps and see an attorney at once.

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Answered on 12/20/05, 1:02 pm

Re: Neighbors built onto our property.

Your neighbors have encroached on your property. You can file a lawsuit for ejectment and force them to remove the encroachment. Presumably, you never agreed that your neighbors could build on your property.

To do this, you will likely need to retain an attorney familiar with real property and title issues. We are real property litigators, and if/when you are ready to proceed, feel free to call or email.

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Answered on 12/20/05, 9:27 pm

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