We have all heard the adage “good fences make good neighbors.” Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that when neighbors agree on their boundary lines and respect each other’s property, fewer disagreements arise. It may also be true that bad fences make bad neighbors. If you are in a dispute with your neighbor regarding your property lines, you understand how important this issue can be. These disputes do have solutions, however.
Have a survey done
Many boundary disputes arise when one person sells their property or decides to build on their property. You may review the city parcel map and realize that your neighbor’s driveway encroaches on your property. Perhaps your driveway is doing the encroaching. You should be aware that these maps are not always accurate. Before you jump to any conclusions, talk to your neighbor to find out where they believe the boundary lines lie.
If you disagree, hiring a professional surveyor may be your most accurate solution. A surveyor will accurately identify your boundary lines according to your legal description. You will have to pay to have a survey done, but the cost is less than a lawsuit, and if you do end up in court, you will most likely need to have one done, anyway.
Was there an easement?
Easement agreements give someone other than the property owner a legal right to use the property in some way. You may want to research the property title to make sure the person who previously owned your property did not grant a driveway easement to your neighbor. If an easement does exist, you should have an attorney review the document to determine if it is still in effect and whether you have any other options.
If the survey does show that your neighbor’s driveway encroaches on your property, an easement agreement of your own may provide a solution. Assuming you don’t actually mind the encroachment, you can ask your neighbor to pay you for the right to use the property, and give them all the liability of caring and maintaining the property.
Adverse possession claims
Your neighbor may claim that their driveway has been there for many years, and the prior owner never said anything, so they should be allowed to continue. This is an adverse possession claim. Most states, including Georgia, recognize this type of claim. If someone has been continuously using a piece of land openly and without permission from the owner for at least 20 years, that person may have a legal claim to the land. They must be using that land exclusively, meaning that the owner was not also using it.
If you and your neighbor cannot come to an agreement, you may need to bring a quiet title action against your neighbor to have the courts clarify once and for all who owns the property and exactly where the boundary lines lie. This solution is the most expensive because you are going to court. In many cases, neighbors find a solution they are both happy with without going to court. Hopefully, you will, too.