An encroachment occurs when someone or something unlawfully occupies or crosses onto another’s land. In the most typical scenario, an encroachment results from a neighbor building some form of improvement which spans across the property line. In another common scenario, the neighbor might tend another’s land as if he were the true owner, planting trees or shrubs and mowing the grass. Others have faced encroachments in the form of vagrants taking residence beneath outdoor covered spaces or within wooded acreage.
The types of encroachments are numerous, but the legal remedies tend to be only twofold: lawsuits for ejectment or quiet title. These two remedies are closely related and often pleaded as alternative or conjunctive relief in the same court case. The first remedy–ejectment–is an effort to remove the encroachment. The second–quiet title–seeks the court’s confirmation that the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) truly owns the land in question.
Should an encroachment case be contested, the defendant will usually allege the plaintiff lacks title to the land in issue, and that the defendant is instead the owner. Frequently this type of defense is founded upon adverse possession or a related legal theory such as estoppel in pais, mutual acquiescence, parol agreement, or the common grantor doctrine. Adverse possession and its related doctrines, if successful, result in the owner of record losing title to the defendant.
Other times, the defendant argues the plaintiff’s title is defective or inferior to that of the defendant’s own written title. This type of argument might result from the plaintiff having received title through an allegedly flawed conveyance, such as from a seller who ostensibly lacked authority to convey the land. For example, the plaintiff might have purchased title from a married couple without obtaining consent from one of the spouses.
Lastly the defendant might assert the plaintiff was never the owner of record–that the plaintiff misread the property’s legal description. In our experience, even real estate professionals tend to lack the ability to read legal descriptions and surveys properly, which increases the likelihood of these types of disputes.
At Genesis, our real estate attorney(s) are well versed in encroachment-related legal arguments and factual scenarios. This is because our attorneys focus their practices in just one or two areas of the law. Lawyers at Genesis also enjoy outstanding backgrounds and lower hourly rates than most competing law firms.
We invite you explore our website to learn more, or contact us directly to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.