Neighbor disputes such as boundary disagreements, problems caused by the location of buildings and easements, or issues arising from the use and maintenance of joint driveways most often can be resolved by open, face-to-face communication. In the case of boundary disputes, a surveyor can be hired to demarcate property lines or boundaries of easements or a neutral third party can help facilitate discussions.
However, some disputes will necessitate at least a meeting with an attorney to help identify issues and solutions and plan a strategy for resolution. Legal counsel can help negotiate a resolution and can also put any agreement in writing, saving the neighbors from needing to renegotiate later. An attorney can also advise on any necessary further steps and keep both parties on track for any follow through.
Whether neighbors need legal counsel to help resolve a few frequent disputes may entirely be up to the neighbors’ ability to come to a mutually agreeable decision themselves. For example, if a neighbor’s tree is encroaching on your yard, you are within your legal rights to ask your neighbor to take the tree down, and their answer often has everything to do with how you present the issue. Our advice is to talk face-to-face in a nonconfrontational way before pursuing legal services.
A frequent dispute is when a neighbor opens their home to short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb or Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO). While this may not be the ideal situation for the neighborhood, most of these neighbors are within their legal rights to use their home in this manner. An exception to this would be if there is a homeowners’ association that may have applicable rules and/or whether there are covenants that run with the property which could limit or prohibit such conduct.
Other common scenarios that present problems to neighbors are driveways and fences that are erroneously placed onto a neighbors’ property and property lines that are incorrectly surveyed, only to be discovered to be incorrect years later. These scenarios are easily remedied with easements or other agreements, but are difficult to navigate without an attorney.
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There is no set point at which a neighbor dispute becomes a larger issue that requires legal counsel or legal action, but you may want to consider contacting an attorney for guidance.
The above article appeared in the September 2021 Hudson Neighbors magazine.