Sometimes the border between two properties is hard to find. One landowner can accidentally trespass or even build something over the line, on land owned by a neighbor.
When someone else builds a structure on your land, this action is known as encroachment. It often comes up in the context of residential property, but can easily come up in commercial real estate when landowners neglect or ignore boundary lines.
Most of the time, encroachment is accidental. The parties can talk to each other and resolve the matter by moving the encroaching structure, giving the encroachment written permission or an easement, or finding some other solution. In some cases, the best solution may be for the neighbor to buy the part of the property they encroached upon. In other cases, the encroached-upon landowner will have to take the neighbor to court.
In any case, it is a good idea for the encroached-upon landowner to speak to a real estate attorney early in the process. If a landowner has put up with an encroachment over a long period of time without complaint, the encroaching landowner may claim to own the affected area through adverse possession, or a court might declare that the encroachment has rights through a prescriptive easement.
If they aren't handled with care, encroachment disputes between two homeowners can lead to years of bad relationships between neighbors. In commercial real estate, these disputes can lead to legal nightmares and financial jeopardy. Landowners should speak to an experienced real estate lawyer about how to resolve their encroachment disputes.