What is a neighbor dispute or a lot line dispute? Typically it is a dispute amongst adjacent owners of real estate concerning their boundary lines and whether either party has developed the right to extend beyond their legal property lines. In this post, our Los Angeles based real estate attorneys discuss 5 things to consider whenever you are dealing with a lot line, boundary or neighbor dispute.
1. Is there a survey? All boundary disputes should start with a survey. After all, how can either neighbor argue that the other neighbor is exceeding their legal boundary lines without a marker and a licensed survey. We always recommend getting a survey first.
2. Use. This is a key question. In particular, if one of the neighbors is going to make an argument for a prescriptive easement for ingress and egress or some other transitory use, they must establish that they have been using the disputed area for at least 5 years.
3. Burdens of an encroachment. In many of the cases we see, one side or the other argues for the imposition of an equitable easement. One of the big factors, amongst several, is to determine whether the burden to the encroached upon party substantially outweighs the burden to the party maintaining the encroachment. For example, if neighbor “not negligently” (a term of art) built a retaining wall on a neighbor’s property to expand the scope of their own property improvements, determining the relative burdens may become a key factor in examining whether an equitable easement is available.
4. Why fight? Every time we deal with a neighbor dispute we start with asking the question judges ask us to ask our clients over and over – why fight? The reason judges ask this question is that neighbor disputes can be unconformable because in many cases you are living next door to your opponent and that can be uncomfortable during the lawsuit and even afterwards. Moreover, these disputes can be difficult to resolve. We understand that the answer to the question is typically because you have no choice. In Southern California and in Los Angeles in particular, land is very very expensive. As a result parties do have a reasonable and justifiable reason to fight about rights they may have acquired in other properties and, on the flip side, to try to maintain their property lines.
5. Do you need a recorded easement? Inevitably, every neighbor and lot line dispute comes down to whether the person claiming to establish greater rights can resolve the matter without a recorded easement that runs with the land. What does that mean? Stated differently, can the problem be solved temporarily or does the claimant need to record an actual easement (or quiet title) such that all subsequent owners of the two parcels of real property at issue (all successors in interest) are bound to the same easement terms.
At Schorr Law, our Los Angeles based real estate attorneys have extensive experience litigating neighbor and lot line disputes. These disputes are actually more properly called easement disputes. We see these cases on a regular basis and have extensive experience with this area of the law. To inquire about a free 30-minute consultation, contact us today at Schorr Law, (310) 954-1877, firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the contact us box on this page.
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