We recently discovered that our neighbour’s fence crossed on to our side of the property line. Our neighbours built their house about five years ago and when we discussed this with them they demanded that we remove the 3 sq ft of our concrete driveway which lapses on to their side. What is the best solution for us? Is it possible to reach some sort of compromise as we are anxious not to ruin our relationship with our neighbours?
Few issues escalate as quickly into a dispute as a boundary issue between neighbours, and the situation you outline appears to be heading this way – you say, “they demanded”.
Of the three issues to be considered, the fence encroachment, the 3 sq ft driveway encroachment, and your relationship with your neighbours, the latter is of prime importance as, not only is a good relationship desirable but it may be crucial to reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the boundary-related issues. You should take whatever steps you can to maintain a good relationship and the issues concerning the fence and driveway should be considered in this context.
Consider the fence encroachment. You have only recently discovered it, yet their house was built five years ago. The degree of encroachment is therefore unlikely to be significant. If it consists of an expensive construction and the encroachment is marginal and is not interfering with your use or enjoyment of your property you should consider accepting the fence as it is.
Your efforts to rectify it may prove difficult if contested, in particular if the encroachment is marginal and your deed map is not sufficiently detailed to confirm it.
If, however, it is significant and you feel you must have it rectified and your neighbour proves unco-operative you may find yourself heading towards litigation. In such instances reliable evidence including a site survey and a definitive deed map will be necessary. You should avoid litigation if at all possible.
In relation to the driveway, the area appears to be insignificant and should not be the subject of, or be used to escalate the issue to a dispute.
Your best solution is to obtain evidence, preferably including your deed map, and then explain the basis of your concern to your neighbour. You should advise that it is in both of your interests that both properties are in accordance with their respective title documents. Demonstrate your willingness to achieve this by agreeing that the driveway should be adjusted accordingly.
The alternative is to leave things as they are, if it’s not too late. Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor, civil engineer and a member of SCSI.