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.

Bureaucracy – 4 Tips for Dealing with Government Agencies

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Bureaucracy is unavoidable.  It pervades almost every aspect of our lives.

Think about it.

Are you getting married?   Then you’ll need a license.

Building a deck?  Not without a permit.

Hiring an employee?  You’d better tell the state.

Dealing with the government at any level—federal, state or local—is never easy.

But how you approach the situation can minimize your frustration.

Here are a few tips that may help.

Understand the Bureaucrat’s Mentality

First, you need to understand that you’re dealing with a check-the-box mentality.

You either have the information or paperwork that the bureaucrat needs or you don’t.

If you don’t, then no amount of reasoning or arguing is going to help you.

So it’s best—before you submit anything to a government office—to understand exactly what they need from you.

 If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing—Say So!

Many bureaucrats talk down to people.

The moment they realize you’re confused about their policies or procedures, they treat you like the village idiot.

You should always admit your ignorance.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, say so.

Then ask for help.

This will disarm most bureaucrats and encourage them to act more like helpers and less like regulators.

Write Down Everything

Even bureaucrats can’t comprehend all the rules and regulations they enforce.

I often get conflicting advice from bureaucrats that work in the same office.

It’s possible to get their advice, do exactly what they say and then have them reject your paperwork when you finally submit it.

This is why you need to take notes.

When you ask for guidance always write down what you’re told to do.

Record the date and the name of the person who gave you the information.

Read everything back to them.

When you return to submit your paperwork—days, weeks, or months later—bring your notes with you.

If they tell you that your paperwork is incorrect, show them your notes and name the person who told you what to do.

At this point they will be forced to either accept your documents or contradict their coworker.

Keep Your Composure

Whatever you do, don’t lose your cool.

Yelling and losing your temper will almost guarantee that your paperwork or your case get the lowest priority.

Even the most efficient bureaucracies move like molasses.

Don’t give them any reason to put your matter at the bottom of their list.

Keep calm.  Be polite.  But remain persistent.

Like I said, dealing with these offices is never easy.  But if you follow my advice it should help reduce your aggravation and hopefully speed up whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

Overdraft Fees – How to Get Your Money Back

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Banks collect about $32 billion a year in overdraft fees.  The banks’ success in collecting these fees is based on the assumption that you’ll simply pay for the overdraft and not take the time or effort needed to contest the fee.

This is unfortunate because contesting an overdraft is easy and almost always successful.

Here’s how it’s done.

CFPB Complaint

First, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The complaint form is easy to access and fill out.  The process takes only a few minutes.

You’ll need just the bank’s name and your account number.

In the complaint simply state that the bank applied the overdraft fees to your account without your knowledge or consent.

Within 15 days the CFPB will notify the bank of your grievance and ask the bank to resolve the matter.

In the meantime you should call your bank, inform them that you’ve filed the complaint and ask if they’d like to return your money before the CFPB contacts them.

Demand Letter

In addition to the CFPB complaint, you can send your bank a demand letter based on Massachusetts General Law Chapter 93A.

According to 93A, any business that receives a demand letter has 30 days to respond to the customer with a reasonable settlement offer.

If the business ignores your letter or fails to make a reasonable settlement with you, then the business will be liable for “treble damages” when the matter goes to court.

In other words, the business could owe you three times the amount of your original claim.

Details about 93A and a sample demand letter can be found on the Attorney General’s website.

Small Claims Court

Finally, if both the CFPB complaint and the 93A demand letter have failed, simply file a lawsuit in small claims court.

This may seem like a daunting task.  But small claims court is very informal and inexpensive.  You’ll need to fill out a one-page complaint and pay a $40 filing fee.

Remember to state in your complaint that you’re seeking the overdraft fees and treble damages.  So if the bank took $140 in overdrafts, you’re now seeking $420 plus your $40 filing fee:  a total of $460.

In most cases, the bank will not hire an attorney to appear in small claims court to dispute a few hundred dollars.

Instead, a bank representative will contact you and offer to return your money in exchange for dropping the case.

At that point you should ask for at least your overdraft fees and the court filing costs.

Conclusion

You’re likely to succeed using any of these methods—a CFPB complaint, a demand letter or a small claims filing.

But when you use all of them together, you’re almost guaranteed to get your money back.