How to Handle Boundary Line Encroachments

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Is part of your neighbor’s fence, shed, driveway or deck on your land?

If so, it’s important that you address the matter.

Doing nothing could lead to you losing part of your land.

Adverse Possession

According to Massachusetts’ law, if a person openly and continuously uses your land without your permission for 20 years or more, that person can take ownership of the land he used.

This is the doctrine of adverse possession.

For example, say your neighbor builds a fence.

The fence extends five feet onto your property.

It remains in place without your permission for 20 years.

At that point—after 20 years of the fence being on your property—you can no longer force the neighbor to move it.

In fact, the neighbor can seek a court judgment establishing his ownership of the portion of your land encompassed by the fence.

So how do you prevent this from happening?

Get a Survey

First, have your land surveyed.

The average survey costs between $150 and $200.

The survey will show if there is in fact a boundary line encroachment.

It will also show the extent of the encroachment.

Once you’ve confirmed that there is a boundary line issue, you have two options.

Allow the Encroachment

If you don’t mind the encroachment, you can simply give your neighbor written permission to be on your land.

This should prevent any future claims of adverse possession.

Your written authorization should do all of the following:

  1. Clearly describe the encroachment
  2. Expressly permit the encroachment
  3. State that you may revoke your permission at anytime

The document should be signed, notarized and recorded in your county’s registry of deeds.

The recording cost will be $75.

Demand That the Encroachment be Removed

If you want the encroachment removed, it may take some work.

Start by sending a “No Trespass” order to your neighbor.

Here’s an example.

The law is defined in M.G.L. ch. 266 § 120.

You should have the notice delivered by the sheriff’s department.

It will cost about $50.

If the neighbor ignores your notice, then you will need a court order forcing him to remove the encroachment.

At that point, you will almost certainly need to hire an attorney.

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