If you aspire to develop property in Massachusetts, you may be always on the lookout for a promising piece of land. If the land has been sitting vacant for some time, you may want to do a careful examination of the property lines. This includes land you may already own but have not yet developed. You should not be surprised to learn that neighboring property owners have begun to encroach on your land.
Whether this encroachment happened accidentally or intentionally, the law may not be on your side. In fact, you may be facing a case of adverse possession. This is the involuntary transfer of land from the one who owns it to someone who puts it to use. Understanding the components of this law may help you decide the most appropriate course of action to take if someone is encroaching on land you hope to develop.
Protecting your property
Adverse possession is more than a matter of trespassing. A neighbor who makes use of your land may go undetected for years if you are not carefully monitoring your boundaries. This may include watching for construction permits from neighbors and even periodically using drones to provide aerial photographs.
Dealing with encroachment quickly is a good way to prevent adverse possession from taking effect. The longer you wait once you discover a neighbor encroaching on your property, the more difficult it may be to rectify the situation. You may begin by clearly defining the boundaries of your property and placing “no trespassing” signs around the perimeter. You may have to send a trespass letter to anyone who has overstepped the boundaries.
Discovering encroachment too late
If you do not take precautions, neighboring landowners may erect fences, build outbuildings or fence off gardens, among other things, all within the law as long as he or she does the following:
- Takes exclusive possession of your property
- Does not try to hide his or her intentions, such as erecting a fence at night
- Takes the property despite knowing that someone else owns the land
- Holds uninterrupted possession of the property for a certain period of time without your interference
If a neighbor’s encroachment becomes adverse possession, you have more complex legal matters to settle. If you plan to develop or sell the property in the future, you will have to deal with the boundary discrepancy. These issues may require the court to resolve, and you may find the skill of an experienced attorney of great value in this situation.