Robert Frost famously disparaged the idea that "good fences make good neighbors." Unfortunately, that kind of idealism can result in one person taking advantage of neighbors. In some cases, a solid fence or boundary line is important to maintain neighborly relationships. If one neighbor decides to plant or build on or over a property line, it can cause serious issues. If the person whose property was violated doesn't take steps, the law may eventually allow for the person violating the property lines to have the boundaries adjusted. If your neighbor has overstepped that line, you need to take action.
An attorney who understands Virginia real estate law can help you with boundary and property disputes. The longer you let things stand, the harder it may be to win in court. As soon as you realize that your neighbor has overstepped the property boundary, you need to take steps to legally address the situation. The longer the fence or other building stands uncontested, the more likely that the courts will uphold the claim of adverse possession. In these cases, your neighbor could legally obtain property that once belonged to you if you fail to take action in a timely manner.
What is adverse possession?
Adverse possession, also known commonly as "squatter's rights," happens when one person takes possession of a piece of land without the knowledge or consent of the actual owner. Virginia's adverse possession law maintains that the squatters on the property in question must use or possess it for at least fifteen years. In cases with a disabled legal owner, that period of time extends to 25 years. It may take time to realize that a fence or other building is encroaching on your property, particularly if it is built in a remote or heavily-wooded area. When you do, take immediate action.
You need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible when you discover a boundary violation. You may need to pay to have the boundary surveyed to clarify that there is, in fact, a violation of the boundary taking place. From there, your attorney can take legal steps to enforce your property rights. Options include serving your neighbor with notice to move the fence or requiring them to pay rent for the use of your land. While that may seem harsh, failing to take legal steps could result in the loss of some of your property without any sort of financial compensation.
Boundary disputes require legal intervention
If your neighbor did this by accident, he or she may be willing to quickly change the placement of the fence. In the case of a more permanent structure, however, the expense involved in remedying the mistake may make the other party reticent to respect your property. An attorney can help you take whatever steps are necessary to protect your property from illegal encroachment and the potential for adverse possession.