Friday, May 6, 2011

Property Line Issue

Well, first a little background. DH and I moved to our 15 acres in 2000, and one of the main reasons that we selected that particular run-down shack was that it was very much in the "middle of nowhere" and that was my dream. Woods and cornfields surrounded us, with one neighbor a quarter of a mile away and that was the entire neighborhood.

Then, in 2003, the farmer that owned the cornfields sold 10 acres to this guy and his wife. Lucky us, the 10 acres that were sold butt right up to our property. Not only that, but the guy chose to put his double wide etc just as close to our property as could be imagined. Several people stopped by during the excavation just to say "I can't believe this!"

Being as the land had already been sold by the time we learned about it, we really had no choice but to grin and bear it. We've tried to be good neighbors. But they have clearly moved to the wrong place, because they don't like anything we do! Some of their complaints are justified, like the time I left our dog outside (warm summer night) and didn't realize that I couldn't hear her barking outside when I was in the bedroom. But they have also complained about the roosters crowing, the length of the grass, and the guineas (in another attempt to try to be good neighbors, when the guineas were eaten by a predator, we opted not to get more because we knew they disturbed the neighbor). It appears that the more we try to make them happy, the more they complain. They called one night at 9:30pm and asked us to put the dogs inside because they (the neighbors) were out in their yard and the dogs were barking at them (remember they are only feet away from our house now)--ok, we put the dogs away. Then the next night they called at 8pm and asked us to put the dogs away for the same reason. It's gotten to where we are afraid to leave the dogs outside unsupervised, for fear of being bad neighbors.

We now chain up our dogs because they have asked us to. We are afraid to complain about their cat that comes into our yard at will because we are afraid the cat would be killed if we did.

Last fall they complained to the county about (I'm not even sure) the way rain water ran off from our driveway into the street(?) (I'm still not even sure what the exact problem was). The county told us that it was the neighbors that "suggested" an "improvement" and that it would make things better for everyone at no cost to us. The county came and made a holy mess out of the bottom of our driveway in an effort to please these people....now there's a big mudhole there that extends 1/3 of the way into the road....that really fixed the "erosion" problem. Oh--and I didn't mention that they did not opt to discuss the "erosion" with us before going to the county. Oh--and did I mention that the wife works for the county?

I still want to be as good a neighbor as I am able. But frankly, I'm getting fed up with trying to please them. We have never complained about anything to them, as we prefer to "live and let live". Not even the fact that we believed that their driveway was way too close to our property line--why make a big deal out of something......

About a month ago, he (the husband) notified me that he was going to have his land surveyed so that he could put up a better fence than the one we had put up. (The fence we had put up was just T posts & chicken wire, and we made sure it was quite a ways away from where we thought the property line was, in order to avoid any type of dispute or complaint...) Fine, whatever.....put up your fence....I have a few other things to worry about....

Now. Surprisingly (or not), his efforts have led him to an embarrassing conclusion: the property line is not where he thought it was. His tool shed is sitting smack dab on the property line. His propane tank is on our property, as is his electric service. The distance between the edge of his driveway and the property line is about 1 inch. Really.

So they called me out tonite to "talk" about this. I really didn't know what to say, since they were the ones wanting to be precise about the boundaries....I told them that I/we wanted to be good neighbors. So right away they suggested that we do something called a "line adjustment" where the property line(s) are redrawn but no money changes hands. But the fast way they suggested that made me instantly cautious, because of the driveway thing--"Oh yeah, it's going to be better for everyone...." and really....nobody can even drive down the road without worrying now.....

I want to be a good neighbor (despite my frustration it's not my nature to be very spiteful), but I feel like they're asking me/us to give them some land because they messed up. And they haven't exactly made me feel excited about doing that. On the other hand...."do unto others as you would have them do unto you...." And I know we aren't the best neighbors. DH has struggled with his mental illness during this time and I have been working the two jobs to make ends meet. I have not told the neighbors why our yard is a mess or why we can't afford to fix (whatever), because DH's issues are private, so I'm sure they just think we've turned into the trashy people that nobody wants to live next to....and maybe we have,  I don't know......I'm not sure I'd really want to live smack dab next to us either.....but of course I wouldn't move next to us to begin with.  I don't like having neighbors and moved to a place without them for a reason.

I'm sure some of you have thoughts on this or similar experiences....We don't have the money to get an attorney, and I don't like to make waves anyhow....but I don't want make a bad decision in an effort to be a good neighbor, either..... __________________


Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound like they have been very good neighbors so I would think he could move his driveway and other stuff over so it's all on his own property.
That way his shed etc. will be a little further from your dogs too and maybe the dogs will be happier.

In the Pink said...

I am a bit old school when it comes to property and I say SCREW THEM!!! Make them either buy the land or move their things to their side of the property or charge them rent to be on your space. Non of their stuff should be on your side and it is unfair that they expect you to GIFT them your land when they clearly made the mistake of putting things on your land. Their bad. A good neighbor wouldn't ask you to fix their mistakes. Karma is a bitch.

Joanna said...

Do not gift them the property and do not allow them to continue to encroach because of issues with adverse possession. You have these options:

Sell them the encroached propery

Grant them an easement in writing

Require that they move their improvements onto their property

Do you have setback requirements in your neck of the woods? (probably not because you are so rural...) If you were to adjust your property lines, I would guess that you would have title issues down the road because your legal description would be inaccurate. It is actually quite costly to alter property lines and to record all the changes with the county. If they were to keep their encroachments on your property, you would have survey issues if you were to
ever sell your home.

This is their problem, not yours.

Robin said...

Just in case you want more advice:

Know your bylaws and laws, can they really adjust the property lines without consulting a land titles office or going through a lawyer?

Also, up to what time of day/night can your dogs bark without penalty? Here in my city we are allowed to make noise (party, dogs, screaming kids, lawn mowers) until 11 pm. After that the law can be called in and they will ask you to stop or be fined. Is something like that in place where you live? Even though it irritates your neighbour, is your dog barking against the law at that time of day?

Remember, they chose to live next to you with all your furry friends. They can learn to be good neighbours instead of expecting you to change for them.

They want to extend their property line...ask them what chunk of their property adjacent to yours that they will 're-draw' in your favor in exchange.

Or, be forthright. Tell them that they have made your life unpleasant as neighbours and you see no reason to grant them any favors. Tell them to adjust their things so it falls on their property and not yours. They don't need to know your financial situation and that you can't afford a lawyer. You can file a complaint with the county and have the county make them move their stuff, right? Or not.

If you let them take advantage of your good nature they will abuse it. They have already shown you that no matter what you do it will never be enough.

Ooo, or, depending on your property lines, sell a strip of your property to someone else - including the inch the other person is sitting on. Then let it be the new owner's problem and not yours :)

Blondee said...

We have been living 'property line' hell for the last two years and now we are in court battling over keeping a restraining order against the 'neighbors'. It's a mess.

Here are my two cents. Firstly, I don't know where you are, I am in NY, and here in our county if you keep up property for a certain number of years, even if it doesn't belong to you, you can claim it and actually get it legally deeded to you. So, if these bullies (YES, they are BULLIES) are on your land and have been mowing it, etc for any legnth of time, they might legally be able to claim it. I wouldn't let that happen. You paid for your land, why would you hand parts of it over to bossy mcbosspants? They should either pay for the land (it's only fair to pay for it and who can't use money in this economy?) or have him move his junk.

You have been a good neighbor...and that's where it ends, you are not a doormat.

Another way to handle it is to say you would like to speak to your lawyer first. You don't really need to call a lawyer, but they will realize that no lawyer is going to tell you to hand over land for nothing....not to mention to neighbors who take issue with you already.Then in a week or two let them know the
lawyer thinks it best you keep the current line and they relocate the shed.

Reighnie said...

Do not give up your land. I know you have enough on your plate but at some point you're going to have to stand up for yourself and your rights.

It's one thing when it's your family but a totally different thing when it's assholes next door.


Grace. said...

You need to talk with an attorney about 'adverse possession.' It's a more difficult concept than most people understand. It usually takes 10 years, and, counter-intuitively, you complaining about them being on your property only helps their cause. It's actually better if you send them a Christmas card each year giving them 'permission' to have their driveway or shed on your property because that doesn't allow their encroachment to be "possessed adversely." If you do allow it, though, I definitely think some money ought to change hands! From theirs to yours!