May 28, 2023


Encroachment refers to a situation where a property or part of it extends beyond the legal boundaries of its rightful owner. Encroachments can occur in various forms, including structures like fences, buildings, or even trees planted beyond the boundary lines.

These encroachments can result in legal disputes between parties, and understanding the legal implications of encroachments on a property is vital for anyone seeking to protect their property rights. In this article, we will examine what encroachment is, the different types, and delve into the legal implications of encroachments on a property.

Overview of Property Encroachment

What is Encroachment?

Encroachment is defined as the intrusion or invasion of one property onto another neighboring property without the consent of the property owner. It can take several forms, ranging from physical structures to plants and trees.

Non-structural encroachment refers to any object or element that extends beyond the property boundary line, such as trees, bushes, or roots. Structural encroachment includes any physical structures built on the neighboring property that encroach on another property. Such encroachments can arise from poor surveying or incorrect land boundary markers.

To determine whether an encroachment has occurred, one must consider the intention of the parties and the nature of the encroachment. The intention of the parties is critical in determining an encroachment. If there is permission from the affected property owner, what would otherwise be considered an encroachment becomes permitted.

Moreover, an encroachment may have a significant impact on both properties and their value. For example, an encroaching building may obstruct a neighbor’s view, reducing the value of their property. An encroaching garden or bushes may harm a neighboring property’s foundation, leading to structural damage and compromising its safety.

In summary, encroachment refers to the extension or invasion of one property onto another neighboring property. Encroachment can occur in various forms and have significant implications on property value and even safety. It is vital for property owners to seek legal advice and take appropriate measures to avoid or resolve encroachment issues.

Different Categories of Encroachment

There are generally two types of encroachments that can occur on a property: structural and non-structural encroachments. Structural encroachments refer to situations where a physical structure, such as a building or fence, extends onto an adjacent property without permission.

Common examples of structural encroachments include walls, roofs, and foundations that cross the property line. Non-structural encroachments, on the other hand, do not involve a physical structure. Instead, they involve the use of part of an adjacent property without permission. Non-structural encroachments can range from a neighbor’s tree extending over a property line to a neighbor using a portion of an adjacent property for parking or storage.

It is important to note that both structural and non-structural encroachments can have legal implications for property owners and can lead to disputes between neighbors that may require the intervention of legal authorities or courts. Property owners are advised to seek legal advice if they suspect an encroachment on their property.

Legal Implications


The legal concept of trespassing involves any intentional or unintentional intrusion onto someone else’s property without their consent. Trespassing can occur physically, such as someone walking through a private yard to get to another location, or non-physically, such as throwing objects onto someone’s property or even causing excessive noise.

In cases of trespassing, the property owner has the right to take legal action against the individual responsible. This could involve filing a civil lawsuit and seeking compensation for any damages caused or seeking an injunction to prevent the trespasser from entering the property again in the future.


When an encroachment interferes with the use or enjoyment of a property, the affected landowner may have a legal cause of action for nuisance. A nuisance is a condition or activity that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of property and is unreasonable for a normal person to endure. Examples of nuisances include loud noises, obnoxious odors, smoke or pollution, and even certain types of trees or vegetation.

To establish a nuisance claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s use of their property causes an unreasonable interference with the plaintiff’s use of their property. In some cases, the plaintiff may have to show that the defendant acted intentionally or negligently to create the nuisance.

In terms of encroachments, a nuisance claim may arise when a neighboring property’s use or structure results in an invasion of the plaintiff’s land. For example, if a neighbor builds a fence or structure that crosses over onto the plaintiff’s land, this may constitute a nuisance.

Similarly, if a neighbor’s overgrown trees or vegetation encroach onto the plaintiff’s land and cause damage or interfere with the use of the property, the plaintiff may have a nuisance claim. In such situations, the court may order the removal of the offending structure or tree or may award damages to compensate the plaintiff for the interference.

It is important to note that not all encroachments will give rise to a nuisance claim. A court will consider a variety of factors in determining whether a particular encroachment constitutes a nuisance, including the severity of the interference and the reasonableness of the defendant’s use of their property. Additionally, the court may consider any applicable local ordinances or zoning regulations that may prohibit certain types of structures or activities.

In conclusion, nuisance is an important legal concept that can be used to address encroachments on a property. When facing an encroachment issue, a landowner should consider consulting with an experienced attorney to determine whether a nuisance claim is a viable option. By understanding the legal implications of encroachments and nuisances, property owners can protect their rights and ensure the responsible use of their land.

Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is a legal concept that gives a person the right to take ownership of someone else’s property. The most common example is when someone uses a piece of land for a certain period of time and asserts ownership over it.

Generally, the person must show that they have used the land for a period of time specified by law, usually between five and twenty years, depending on the jurisdiction. One of the key requirements for gaining ownership through adverse possession is the requirement of open and notorious possession of the land. This means that the person must use the land as if they were the owner and put everyone else on notice of their claim to the land.

The possession must also be hostile. The hostility requirement is not satisfied if the person using the land has permission or consent of the owner. The person using the land must also continuously possess the land for the entire statutory period without interruption. Adverse possession is a complex legal concept that can have serious implications for property owners. It is important for property owners to be aware of their legal rights and obligations regarding adverse possession to avoid losing their property.


Easements refer to the legal right that allows an individual to use another person’s property without possessing it. Understanding easements is crucial in determining property rights and avoiding disputes. An easement can be created in various ways, such as by prior use, express grant, necessity or prescription.

It is important to note that an owner cannot grant an easement on property that they do not own. Easements can be affirmative or negative. Affirmative easements allow individuals to use the property for a specific purpose, such as a right of way. Negative easements restrict the use of the property, such as an agreement not to build on a certain part of the land.

Easements can be exclusive or non-exclusive. Exclusive easements grant the right to use the property to a specific individual or group alone, while non-exclusive easements allow multiple individuals to utilize the property. Easements can also be appurtenant or in gross. Appurtenant easements are attached to the property and transfer with the land, while in gross easements are not tied to the property and can be sold or transferred independently.

The enforcement of easements can be a complicated legal issue. The parties involved need to carefully examine the terms of the easement in question to understand their rights and obligations. In some cases, the easements may be extinguished due to lack of use or abandonment. If an individual violates the easement rights of another party, the legal remedies can include an injunction or a damage award.

It is important to note that easements are subject to certain limitations, such as the requirement that they do not place undue burdens or interferences on the servient estate or the owner’s reasonable use of the land. The creation of an easement may also require payment of compensation to the property owner if it results in a reduction in property values.

The establishment of easements can be an intricate legal process that requires the expertise of a real estate attorney. Property owners need to understand the different types of easements and the circumstances that can lead to the creation and termination of easements. By seeking legal advice, individuals can ensure that they are aware of their rights and obligations concerning easements, thus minimizing the risk of disputes and legal problems.

Boundary Disputes

Boundary disputes can arise between neighboring landowners and can quickly escalate into contentious legal battles if not addressed properly. These disputes may involve disagreements over property boundaries, easements, or other property rights. In many cases, legal action may be necessary to resolve these disputes, and it is essential to seek the advice of an experienced real estate attorney as soon as possible to protect your property interests.

One common cause of boundary disputes is confusion over property lines. Property owners may erect fences or other structures that encroach onto their neighbor’s property unknowingly. The legal term for this type of encroachment is a boundary line dispute, and it can lead to legal action if not resolved amicably between the parties.

In some cases, a neighbor may intentionally encroach on another’s property, resulting in a trespass. This type of boundary dispute can be more difficult to resolve and may require the assistance of law enforcement or the courts. Property owners who find themselves in this situation should consult with an attorney to protect their rights and prevent further encroachments.

Another common boundary dispute involves easements. An easement is a legal right to use someone else’s property for a specific purpose. For example, an easement may grant a utility company the right to access a property to install and maintain utility lines. Boundary disputes involving easements can be complex and may require the assistance of a real estate attorney to resolve.

Ultimately, boundary disputes can be costly and time-consuming for all parties involved. Seeking the assistance of an experienced real estate attorney can help ensure that your property interests are protected and that any potential disputes are resolved as efficiently as possible.

Measures to Prevent and Address Encroachments

Preventing Encroachments

One of the most important steps in protecting a property from encroachments is to take preventative measures. This can include having a survey conducted to establish the boundaries of the property and ensure that nearby structures or vegetation are not crossing onto the property. It can also involve working with neighbors to establish clear boundaries and ensure that both parties are aware of the limits of their respective properties.

Another key preventative measure is to establish easements or rights-of-way for any necessary access to the property, such as for utility services or driveway access. Taking these steps can help to avoid future disputes over property boundaries and prevent encroachments from occurring.

Remedies for Encroachments

When it comes to encroachments, there are two types of remedies available for property owners to pursue: self-help remedies and legal remedies. Self-help remedies involve the property owner taking action to remove the encroaching structure or object without seeking assistance from a court or legal authority. However, it is important to note that self-help remedies should only be used when no other option is available and should always be done in accordance with local laws and regulations.

Legal remedies, on the other hand, involve taking the case to court and seeking resolution through the legal system. Legal remedies can be complex and expensive, but they can also provide the property owner with a more permanent solution to the encroachment problem.

Self-help remedies may include tactics such as talking to the neighbor about the encroachment and requesting that they remove the structure or object, sending a letter or legal notice to the neighbor demanding that they remove the encroaching structure or object, or physically removing the encroaching structure or object themselves.

However, it is important to note that property owners should always be careful when using self-help remedies, as they can potentially put themselves at risk of liability if they do not follow the law. Additionally, some self-help remedies may not be advisable in certain situations, such as if the neighbor is violent or has a history of being aggressive.

If self-help remedies are unsuccessful or not advisable in a particular situation, legal remedies may be pursued. Legal remedies may include filing a lawsuit against the neighbor and seeking a court order that requires the removal of the encroaching structure or object, obtaining an injunction to prevent the neighbor from continuing to encroach on the property, or seeking damages for any harm caused by the encroachment. Legal remedies can be complex and costly, but they can also provide the property owner with a more permanent solution to the encroachment problem.

Ultimately, the best remedy for encroachments will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Property owners should always consult with an experienced attorney before taking any action against a neighbor who is encroaching on their property. By understanding the legal implications of encroachments on a property and pursuing the appropriate remedies, property owners can protect their rights and their property.

Encroachments FAQs

What is an encroachment?

An encroachment occurs when part of a building, fence, or any other structure extends beyond the property boundary of the property owner, and onto a neighboring property.

What types of encroachments exist?

There are two primary types of encroachments: structural and physical. Structural encroachments refer to any part of a building extending beyond a property line, while physical encroachments relate to the placement of objects such as drainage pipes or trees.

What are the legal implications of an encroachment?

The legal implications of an encroachment can be serious, as property owners have a legal right to not have another’s property infringe on their own. This can result in legal action or injunctions to have the encroachment removed.

What actions can be taken to prevent or rectify an encroachment?

Preventing encroachments involves careful planning and monitoring of property boundaries during construction. Rectifying encroachments may involve seeking a settlement with the neighbor, negotiating an easement, or seeking legal action if necessary.

Can a property owner dispute an encroachment claim?

Property owners may dispute an encroachment if it can be proven that the encroachment was not intentional or resulted from a mistake or misunderstanding. However, legal counsel should be sought in such cases to ensure proper representation and defense.

How can a property owner protect themselves from potential encroachment claims?

Property owners can protect themselves from potential encroachment claims by ensuring that property boundaries are clearly marked and by regularly inspecting boundaries for any potential encroachments. It may also be beneficial to purchase title insurance to protect against any potential claims.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}