Author Topic: Neighbor Adventures: This Land Is My Land... This Land Is (Not) Your Land  (Read 35204 times)

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Poppea

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If it's any consolation, adverse possession isn't as easy as it might sound.  In Maryland, for example, it has to occur over 20 years and be continuous.  It also has to be what they call "exclusive", in that the person trying to take possession is denying you use of your own land.

For instance, putting up a fence two feet over on your property line, which keeps you out of that two feet of property, would count as "exclusive".  Just cutting your grass and maintaining it, however, probably would not.  Something like a driveway probably wouldn't fall under "exclusive", as you can still walk on or drive on a driveway on your property.  However, that might become an easement or right of way, with enough time, if you don't do anything about it.

Personally, the idea of adverse possession makes my blood boil.  It infuriates me that there are even laws on the books that give people legal means to take your hard-earned property.  If anything, the law should be there to protect the property owner, not set up loopholes for squatters and thiefs and such.
Interesting.  When we bought our house, the existing fence had chopped off a tiny corner of the neighbor's land.  It was pretty clear what had happened; whoever put up the fence didn't want to cut the pipe at the top of the fence, and just extended it out to its full length, about 2 feet onto the neighbor's property.  We've owned the house for 21 years.  We talked to Neighbor about it, and he said "Don't worry about it."  Does that make us thieves?  WE didn't put in that section of fence, and a few square feet off of his 3 acres  obviously doesn't matter to him.
No, that would make whomever put up the fence a thief if they did not have permission of the current owner.  A few square feet might matter to a different owner.

magicdomino

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The property next to ours was subdivided into two lots.  The new house needed access.  The owner informed us that he was going to tap into the "road" that we were standing on for it.  The problem was, that that was our driveway.  He though that we would have issue sharing part of our one-lane driveway so that this new house could have one.  Uh....No...

On the other hand, the lots behind me have a legal easement to extend the first house's driveway to the center lots, turning it into a kind of private road.  As it so happens, the same people own the house and the two empty lots, so they don't care.

HeebyJeebyLeebee

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The property next to ours was subdivided into two lots.  The new house needed access.  The owner informed us that he was going to tap into the "road" that we were standing on for it.  The problem was, that that was our driveway.  He though that we would have issue sharing part of our one-lane driveway so that this new house could have one.  Uh....No...

On the other hand, the lots behind me have a legal easement to extend the first house's driveway to the center lots, turning it into a kind of private road.  As it so happens, the same people own the house and the two empty lots, so they don't care.

My grandma's ranch is sorta like that.  I'm not sure whose property the private road/driveway is actually on, but all the neighbors chip in to keep it mowed and maintained.  An oil company has mineral rights to the land, and the drill is on my grandma's property.  So the oil company has an easement to the drill.  They also help maintain the drive & gates (one to enter the private road, another one to get to the drill, and a final one to get to the ranch house).  It actually works out really well for everyone.  None of the ranch owners along the private road live full time on their ranches, but there's an oil tech there a few times a week.  Everyone feels good knowing that someone's out there keeping an eye on things.   :)  But I'd say this is one of those "best case scenarios". 
I am grateful for the friends I have made on EHell and everything I have learned, but it is time I move on.

drebay

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The property next to ours was subdivided into two lots.  The new house needed access.  The owner informed us that he was going to tap into the "road" that we were standing on for it.  The problem was, that that was our driveway.  He though that we would have issue sharing part of our one-lane driveway so that this new house could have one.  Uh....No...

On the other hand, the lots behind me have a legal easement to extend the first house's driveway to the center lots, turning it into a kind of private road.  As it so happens, the same people own the house and the two empty lots, so they don't care.

My grandma's ranch is sorta like that.  I'm not sure whose property the private road/driveway is actually on, but all the neighbors chip in to keep it mowed and maintained.  An oil company has mineral rights to the land, and the drill is on my grandma's property.  So the oil company has an easement to the drill.  They also help maintain the drive & gates (one to enter the private road, another one to get to the drill, and a final one to get to the ranch house).  It actually works out really well for everyone.  None of the ranch owners along the private road live full time on their ranches, but there's an oil tech there a few times a week.  Everyone feels good knowing that someone's out there keeping an eye on things.   :)  But I'd say this is one of those "best case scenarios". 

There is a "sort of": easment for the water dept.  All of the fences were built to the maximum, and there is a water drainage ditch next to our property.  The only access is through our driveway.  The water dept always tells the new guys working that techically, we do not have to let them tie up our driveway, but we let them.  They are good about asking if we need to get out when they do come out to cut the grass in the ditch.

Balletmom

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The OP needs to keep an eye out on Mr. Land Grab Neighbor, but I, for one, would have loved to see the other neighbor flip the guy over as he was moving the markers.

I nominate Mr. Land  Grab Neighbor as a worthy successor to the Dresser Queen, may her reign continue forever in any home not near 100 miles of my own.

Doll Fiend

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And how many Dressers of craziness does this guy get? I say a full 12. What idiot comes up against  special forces?

JoieGirl7

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There is a house in back of my son's house.  His driveway extends down the side of our property all the way to his rectangular lot.  His front property line is our back property line.
 
When we bought the house we had a survey done and he "let" his 5 year old pluck all the orange flags from the ground!   :o

And there was orange tape wrapped around some of the trees at the back of our property...
 
He was trying to make it seem as if about a 15 foot strip along the back part of our property was his.

He didn't count on me actually going out and finding the iron pipes in the ground and knowing exactly where the property line was.

He later explained that the former owner of his house had done it to him and that he didn't find out until the day of closing how close the property line was to the front of his house.  I told him that if that was the case, he should not have closed on it.
 
It was a bad situation for him.  On the lot he had--while it was a half acre--more than half was on the other side of a creek and unusable and there were easements on the lot to the point that where his house was, was the only place there could be any structure--so he couldn't build a garage or anything else for that matter.
 
We offered to sell him a strip of land along the back but he went and bought another, bigger house.
 
Sometimes people will just try to get away with anything.
 
On our own property, when we had a fence put in and in some places tied in to existing fences, our fence guy went around to get the paperwork signed.  One fence owner had placed his fence 2 feet into his property line--the property line was right where a steep bank began.
 
We asked for and received permission in perpetuity to have that part of his property become part of our yard.  Not that its a very usable strip of land--to him or to us.  The size of our lots in this neighborhood do not really add or detract from the value of the home--they are all roughly the same.

Yarnie

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We had a neighbor like NSGN -  my folks had a house built in a neighborhood they fell in love with - large lots, lots of trees.  After our house was finished and we'd moved in the lot next door sold and we met our new neighbors when they rang our doorbell to get us to sign a document allowing them to use the easement between our houses (which was actually our land) to extend their driveway.  Seems that the house they were having built didn't really fit on the lot and the side entry driveway would be cut too tight.

Trying to be nice, my dad signed the waiver allowing them to build their driveway almost smack up against ours (no more easement with pretty shrubs, but oh well) There was now only about a 1 inch gap between the two driveways instead of the 18 inches previous.

A few months after that, the neighbors had their grandkids over to help them stack firewood.  We arrived home to see they'ed stacked about 2 cords of wood between two pecan trees on the side/back yard.  Problem was - those trees were on OUR property, by about 5 feet!  Dad went over (and with his sarcastic sense of humor) thanked them for the firewood, we couldn't wait to use the fireplace that winter!  The guy had the decency to blush as Dad explained that the pecan trees were on OUR property and they could leave the wood there if they were willing to share.  The next morning, the grandkids were back moving all the wood.

And lastly, i came home from work one day and had just pulled into our garage.  As i'm getting out of my car in the garage, i see the neighbor's garage door go up (our garages faced eachother - both side entry)  Then a car pulls up into OUR driveway and crosses over in order to make the full turn into the neighbor's garage!  It was the wife - she couldn't make the turn into the garage using their driveway,so she'd been using ours as a bridge!!  I just stood there dumbfounded staring at her - and she saw me when she got our of her car.

My dad got transferred not long after that - i wonder how the new owners dealt with "we overbuilt for our lot" neighbors?

We share a driveway with our next door neighbors - or, rather, our one car driveway butts right up onto their driveway.  I've never thought a thing about driving on their driveway, and visca versa.  (Mainly, to get around cars  - they are long driveways which access the garages in the back.)

alkira6

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Wow, I guess this happens more than I thought. My DH and I bought our house in Feb. We were lucky enough to get one of the larger corner lots, but still built a smaller house than we initially planned (we built up instead of out) so that we would have a larger yard. The neighbor behind us on the other corner lot built a huge house that left about 4 ft of yard until you hit the property line. I came out one day to find people busy measuring and flagging and spraying the grass w/measurements. Since construction is still going on I assumed they were doing ...something...w/utilities or such. After talking to them I found out that our new neighbor was having a fence put in. Unfortunately, she was trying to have it put in 2/3 the way across our yard. I very kindly showed the nice men where the real property line was. I got a few dirty looks from my neighbor, but so far no fence. Considering some of the other things that have happened, we'll probably put a fence in first.

TootsNYC

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If it's any consolation, adverse possession isn't as easy as it might sound.  In Maryland, for example, it has to occur over 20 years and be continuous.  It also has to be what they call "exclusive", in that the person trying to take possession is denying you use of your own land.

For instance, putting up a fence two feet over on your property line, which keeps you out of that two feet of property, would count as "exclusive".  Just cutting your grass and maintaining it, however, probably would not.  Something like a driveway probably wouldn't fall under "exclusive", as you can still walk on or drive on a driveway on your property.  However, that might become an easement or right of way, with enough time, if you don't do anything about it.

Personally, the idea of adverse possession makes my blood boil.  It infuriates me that there are even laws on the books that give people legal means to take your hard-earned property.  If anything, the law should be there to protect the property owner, not set up loopholes for squatters and thiefs and such.

The purpose of adverse possession is, if a landowner completely abandons the land, and can't be located, doesn't pay taxes, etc, the land can get a new owner who is involved with it. It's actually in the community's interest, sometimes. That's why it's so hard--20 years is a LONG time. And if fraud were involved (moving markers) I'd think it would be much harder

In the foreclosure mess, I can easily envision a scenario in which a house is owned by heaven knows who, bcs the bank cut the mortgage up, and it simply slips through the cracks. No one knows who owns it; nobody's paying real-estate taxes; nobody's caring for it.  So is it better for the community for someone to move into that home, and start paying taxes and taking care of it? And if they are successful at doing that for X years, or however long, then the real owners must genuinely not care about it.

I "know" someone on an Internet forum who was seriously considering this, bcs that was the case with the house she wanted to buy. Nobody had paid property taxes for 2  years, and all her phone calls (and she was in the mortgage industry) and letters hadn't located anyone who thought they owned it. Meanwhile, the house was sitting unattended, and accumulating small damage, and a leak, etc., bcs nobody "owned" it.


tallone

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This thread is classic! I have a friend who lives on a private road with some of these problems. The street is a cul-de-sac and there's some kind of neighbourhood authority or somesuch that means they are all bound to blah blah blah and they each get x amount of land. The street was built by a group of army vets in the 50s apparently. Great story actually, a platoon that just happened to have a plumber, a bricklayer, an electrician, a carpenter etc and together they built nine houses with two spare lots, and over the years obviously the houses have been bought, upgraded, rebuilt, spare lots have been built on etc but the "we're all buddies who own a street" legal agreement they had is still binding.

So my friend is situated on the right hand house of the three at the rear of the cul-de-sac. An elderly woman owns the central house and has been president of the homeowners whatever for the past fifteen years. She has carefully marked out her property lines and jsut because she also owns the road, painted boundaries on "her" part of the road. Not only will she come out yelling if you park there, she will come out yelling with a broom handle studded with hammer heads and attack your car.

Sure, she's in her rights to get you off her property. Sure, she's an old lady and the police won't prosecute. But an improvised mace attack on you and your car?! My friend has few birthday parties because no one can visit without extensive carpooling or cabs.

But to earn her place in this particular thread, instead of one about neighbours going off their rocker, she has now painted yelow warning lines about two feet away from her boundary.  According to what she told police, her vision is going and yellow is easier for her to see. So she decided to put a protective bubble around her piece of road so if anyone parks near it she can come out and attack their car. Since it was getting hard for her to tell if they crossed the line now you don't have to park on her property, only with two feet of it for her to smash your windscreen and put dents everywhere. Which is getting expensive for my friend, since those boundary lines cut the back of her driveway (read: where she parks behind her parents) in half.

Rosey

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Wow, I guess this happens more than I thought. My DH and I bought our house in Feb. We were lucky enough to get one of the larger corner lots, but still built a smaller house than we initially planned (we built up instead of out) so that we would have a larger yard. The neighbor behind us on the other corner lot built a huge house that left about 4 ft of yard until you hit the property line. I came out one day to find people busy measuring and flagging and spraying the grass w/measurements. Since construction is still going on I assumed they were doing ...something...w/utilities or such. After talking to them I found out that our new neighbor was having a fence put in. Unfortunately, she was trying to have it put in 2/3 the way across our yard. I very kindly showed the nice men where the real property line was. I got a few dirty looks from my neighbor, but so far no fence. Considering some of the other things that have happened, we'll probably put a fence in first.

These stories amaze me!!!! What are these people thinking? We already had fences up when we moved into our house, and we live in an HOA. Even then, the side yards between us are pretty small. Not only do we not have any issues with who owns the land and how it gets used, but my neighbor on one side actually pays his landscaper to mow the entire sideyard (imagine ten feet instead of five feet of difficult land because it's shaped like a v) so that I don't have to mow my part. I mow my yard regularly, so he really just does this because he's a nice man.  :)

We are trying to sell our house and hope to buy a house with a lot of land, but I can't even imagine dealing with all of this land grabbers! I'm glad I read this thread because it has made me a lot more interested in determinine where our fence in the future house should be to ensure appropriate property lines - for us and them!

FunkyMunky

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Wow, I guess this happens more than I thought. My DH and I bought our house in Feb. We were lucky enough to get one of the larger corner lots, but still built a smaller house than we initially planned (we built up instead of out) so that we would have a larger yard. The neighbor behind us on the other corner lot built a huge house that left about 4 ft of yard until you hit the property line. I came out one day to find people busy measuring and flagging and spraying the grass w/measurements. Since construction is still going on I assumed they were doing ...something...w/utilities or such. After talking to them I found out that our new neighbor was having a fence put in. Unfortunately, she was trying to have it put in 2/3 the way across our yard. I very kindly showed the nice men where the real property line was. I got a few dirty looks from my neighbor, but so far no fence. Considering some of the other things that have happened, we'll probably put a fence in first.

I can't imagine why she gave you dirty looks - you just saved her the huge expense of putting up then tearing down an illegal fence.

rockingrandma

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Oh boy, this just reminds me of the situation that the people who moved in behind dad got themselves into.  Imagine four lots between two streets-two face one street, two face the other street and they all meet in the middle.  When dad's next door neighbor, MayMay went to a nursing home her daughter put the house up for sale.  At that time, there were actually only three lots because MayMay's went from one street to the other.  For over 20 years dad had taken care of that lot for her, she even let him put a garden on it for many years.  Also important to know is that the house on the south side of the lot actually has a bay window thingy that is over the property line, as the line is flush with the house.

When MayMay's house sold, the guy didn't want all that extra land so it was subdivided right at the driveway and the empty lot was donated to Habitat for Humanity.  Even so, dad continued to mow it to keep down on pests.

Then a young couple bought the house directly behind dad, north of the empty lot.  One morning dad was out mowing as usual and the guy came out asking what he was doing.  In the discussion it was revealed that this guy thought that lot was his...and dad had to set him straight. 

Turns out the Realtor had told these poor people that the lot was part of the house they were buying, and if they had known it wasn't they wouldn't have bought it.  The lot is now theirs though.  The Realtor was forced to negotiate and buy the lot from Habitat for Humanity and give it to the couple.  Of course they found out on the day of the transfer about the house to the south technically being on that property.  Then they had to start all over again because they weren't informed of the easement that had been in place for 50 years.

All that trouble, and they just put up a 10 foot tall privacy fence....only around the original yard and right up on the property line (a no no).  So not only are they not getting any use out of the empty lot they fought so hard for, they are going to have to take down the fence and move it about 4 feet into their yard because 1) local ordinances 2) dad can barely back out of his drive because there is no wiggle room and 3) he never got a permit.

And my family wonders why I want to live out in the country on a gravel road surrounded by corn fields.

camlan

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Being out in the country won't help a bit. I have cousins who own an old New England farmhouse that's been in their family for generations. They still own bits and pieces of the original farmland scattered around, the parts that weren't sold off to send people to college. They mostly use the house as a vacation home at this point, so no one lives there year round, but there is usually someone there all summer. They have arrangements with various neighbors who tap their maple trees and such like, and give them a percentage of the maple syrup in return. So they get along well with their neighbors.

Their area is slowly becoming popular with people from places like NYC as there is skiing in the winter and lots of things to do during the summer. Someone bought part of the side of the mountain where they still have a good chunk of land. The New Guy's land directly abuts my cousins' land. A few years ago, New Guy decided he needed a larger garage, but discovered that he couldn't build it where he wanted it, because it would be too close to the lot line. He could easily build the garage on the other side of his house, but he didn't want the garage located there. So he asked the cousins if he could buy part of their land, so that he could build the garage.

They thought about it, but they still use that land for their horses in the summer, so they said no. The New Guy offered twice as much money. They still said no. Then New Guy kind of went ballistic. First, he had his lawyers send threatening letters. Then he tried to take them to court to force them to sell him the land. He was unsuccessful in that attempt. And, by now, there is no way the cousins are going to sell him the land for any price.

Then, in early spring before they've opened the house for the summer, the cousins get a phone call from a neighbor. "Better get up here quick!" New Guy had started to build the garage where he wanted it, and part of it was on my cousins' land.

As you can imagine, building was stopped pretty quickly. New Guy had had to find builders from very far away, because all the local builders had looked at his plans and noticed that he didn't own all the land he was planning to use. After his attempt to steal the land, his family had a rough time in town, as most people knew my cousins and weren't happy with the New Guy.

If you are going to try a land grab, it is perhaps best not to attempt this with a family who have had the local elementary school, the park in the center of town and one of the main roads named after them, and whose uncle is the mayor, and the other uncle is the chief of police. You aren't going to get a lot of support from the locals.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn