June 6, 2023


Identifying potential encroachments on a property is a crucial aspect of any real estate transaction. Encroachment refers to a situation where one person’s property extends onto another person’s property without permission or legal agreement.

This can create problems for both the property owner and the buyer, resulting in disputes, delays, and legal fees. To avoid such complications, it is essential to understand the potential encroachments that may exist on a property and take appropriate measures to address them before proceeding with any sale or purchase. This article explores the various types of encroachments that may occur and how to identify them.



At its core, this article seeks to provide a comprehensive guide on identifying potential encroachments that can affect a property. Encroachments refer to any intrusion, in whole or in part, by a neighboring property or any other entity on a property boundary.

The ramifications of encroachments can be extensive, both financially and legally, and can lead to disputes or litigations that can significantly disrupt a property’s value.

This article aims to provide property owners and potential buyers with the necessary knowledge and tools to identify encroachments, assess their potential risk, and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By the end of this article, you should have a good understanding of encroachments, their potential impact on a property, and the significance of identifying them.

Definition of Encroachment

Encroachment is a term that refers to any intrusion, invasion, or violation of the legal property rights of an individual or entity. It is the unauthorized entry upon the land or property of another by a person, animal, or thing that interferes with the exclusive possession of the property.

can manifest itself in various ways, including constructing buildings, fences, or walls that cross over the boundary lines of a property. Other potential encroachments include planting trees, digging trenches, or installing utilities that extend beyond the property lines. Encroachments can have serious implications for property owners, as they can lead to diminished property value, title defects, and legal disputes that can be costly and time-consuming.

Therefore, it is important for property owners, buyers, and sellers to identify potential encroachments on a property through rigorous inspections and assessments by professional surveyors and attorneys. By identifying potential encroachments early, property owners can take appropriate measures to prevent encroachments from occurring or rectify any encroachments that have already taken place.

Importance of Identifying Encroachments

Identifying potential encroachments on a property is crucial, as it can have a significant impact on the value of the property and its future use. Encroachments are defined as unauthorized intrusions onto a property by a neighbor, government entity, or other party.

They may take various forms, such as a fence, tree, or structure that crosses property lines. Failure to identify potential encroachments early on can result in costly legal disputes, loss of property rights, and decreased property value.

Moreover, identifying potential encroachments can help property owners take necessary steps to address the issue before it becomes a major problem. This includes seeking legal advice, negotiating with the other party, or taking legal action to remove the encroachment.

Overall, the importance of identifying potential encroachments cannot be overstated, as it can help prevent legal, financial, and emotional stress for property owners.

Methods of Identifying Encroachments

Physical Inspection

A physical inspection of a property is an essential part of identifying potential encroachments. During the inspection, a surveyor will physically walk the property boundaries, inspect the surrounding areas, and compare the boundaries with the property map and legal description. Physical inspections should be conducted by licensed surveyors to ensure accuracy and completeness. Issues that may be identified during a physical inspection include overhanging trees, misplaced fences, structures, or driveways, or any other object that crosses the boundary lines of the property.

These encroachments can be minor or major and can have significant legal implications. If left undiscovered, they can lead to potential boundary disputes and legal actions that could result in monetary loss. Therefore, conducting a physical inspection can provide valuable information to potential buyers, sellers, and developers to avoid any unexpected surprises and ensure that the property is free of encroachments that could impact the property’s value or interfere with property usage.

In conclusion, conducting a thorough physical inspection of a property can be an effective way to identify potential encroachments and should be an essential part of due diligence before any real estate transaction.


One way to identify potential encroachments on a property is by conducting a survey. A survey can provide a detailed map of the property’s boundaries, which can be vital in recognizing potential encroachments by adjoining properties.

Typically, surveys will also include elevations, topographical features, and other necessary information that could reveal possible areas where encroachments may have occurred. A professional surveyor will examine the property lines to detect any intrusions and ensure that the boundaries of the lot are well-defined.

Often, surveyors rely on modern technologies, like GPS and laser equipment, when conducting surveys. The use of technology can enhance accuracy in determining the boundary line and any encroachments that may exist.

Therefore, if the property owner or potential buyer is unsure of their boundaries, hiring a professional surveyor may be beneficial. Once the survey is completed, the property owner or buyer can use the information obtained to detect any potential encroachments and take corrective measures.

Title Search

A title search is an essential tool for identifying potential encroachments on a property. This search is conducted to determine the legal ownership of the property and any liens, mortgages, or easements attached to it.

A title search can also reveal any issues with the property’s history that might impact its ownership. This can include things like unpaid taxes or legal disputes that may affect the property’s title or the ownership of adjacent properties. By conducting a thorough title search, prospective buyers can be sure they are purchasing a property with a clear title and without any hidden encroachments or legal issues.

Types of Encroachments

Structural Encroachments

The term structural encroachment refers to any physical structure that extends beyond the property line of the land on which it is erected. Structural encroachments can cause significant issues, as they often require permits, zoning approvals, and other regulatory permissions. Common examples of structural encroachments include walls, garages, and even portions of a house.

While some encroachments are unintentional, such as those caused by previous owners building structures that cross a property line, others may be intentional, such as a neighbor building a fence on the border between two homes without obtaining the proper permissions.

It is essential to identify any potential structural encroachments before purchasing a property to avoid legal issues or disputes that may arise later on.

Non-Structural Encroachments

The term ‘Non-Structural Encroachments’ refers to any incidental or minor element that may pose a potential encroachment on a property without affecting the structural integrity or value of the property itself. Examples of non-structural encroachments include fences, trees, gardens, walkways, and driveways that encroach onto the neighboring property or vice versa.

While non-structural encroachments may appear insignificant, they can still trigger legal conflicts between property owners if they violate local zoning or setback regulations.

Moreover, non-structural encroachments can affect the functionality and aesthetic of the property in question. For example, a tree that encroaches onto the neighbor’s property may potentially cause property damage in the event of a storm or strong winds, leading to a liability dispute.

Thus, it’s essential to identify non-structural encroachments before purchasing a property to avoid potential legal and financial liabilities in the future.

Intentional Encroachments

The intentional encroachment occurs when a neighboring property owner knowingly and purposely constructs a building or structure that crosses the property boundary lines. The encroaching structure could be a fence, retaining wall, or even a building.

Intentional encroachments are the most common form of property disputes. They arise when the neighboring property owner intentionally builds or modifies a structure that crosses the boundary without obtaining permission from the affected property owner. Intentional encroachments cause significant disturbance to the rights of the affected property owner.

They can lead to a loss of property value, and, in some cases, the affected property owner may be forced to modify, remove the structure or take legal action.

In most situations, intentional encroachments result from inconsiderate and malicious actions by the neighbor, or they may occur as a result of a misunderstanding of the extent of the property lines. Property owners should, therefore, exercise caution and seek legal advice before undertaking any building or construction work near property lines to avoid unintentional encroachments.

Unintentional Encroachments

Unintentional encroachments refer to instances in which a property owner or a neighbor unintentionally violates someone else’s property boundaries. These encroachments can take many forms, ranging from a property owner inadvertently building a fence or structure that encroaches on a neighbor’s property to a neighbor planting trees or other vegetation that extends beyond the property line.

Dealing with unintentional encroachments can be challenging, as often both parties are unaware of the issue until it is brought to their attention. Resolving unintentional encroachments typically involves reaching an agreement between the two parties, perhaps with the assistance of a mediator or attorney. It is essential to address these encroachments promptly, as they can create legal disputes and result in significant expenses associated with legal fees, repairs, and property damage.

Unintentional encroachments are relatively common, and property owners should take steps to prevent them by being mindful of their property boundaries, using proper surveying techniques, and regularly checking for any changes in property conditions. Failure to identify and address unintentional encroachments can have significant consequences, including loss of use or value of the encroached-upon land, decreased property value, and potential legal liability.

Consequences of Encroachments

Legal Consequences

Financial Consequences

One of the financial consequences of having an encroachment on a property is the potential loss of value. In many cases, buyers may be less willing to purchase a property with encroachments, especially if the encroachments are significant. This is because encroachments can create title issues that may need to be resolved before the property can be sold.

Additionally, encroachments can limit the use of the property, making it less valuable to potential buyers. For example, if a neighboring property has encroached on a portion of the property, this may limit the ability to build on or use that portion of the property. This could reduce the property’s overall value or reduce the potential return on investment for the property.

Another financial consequence is the potential cost of resolving the encroachment. This can include legal fees, surveying costs, or the cost of actually removing the encroachment. In some cases, it may be necessary to pay the neighboring property owner to remove the encroachment, which can be a significant expense. Finally, having an encroachment on a property can also affect financing options. Some lenders may be less willing to provide financing for a property with encroachments, which can limit the pool of potential buyers and reduce the overall value of the property.

Impact on Property Value

Encroachments on a property can have a significant impact on the value of the property, which can have both financial and legal consequences. Encroachments can affect the marketability and desirability of the property, potential buyers may be less interested in purchasing a property with encroachments and may be more difficult to resell.

Similarly, properties with encroachments may have a lower appraised value, which can negatively affect financing and insurance ratings. The presence of encroachments can also complicate legal matters, as encroachments can create uncertain boundaries and lead to disputes between neighboring property owners.

In addition, depending on the nature and extent of the encroachment, there may be legal remedies that can affect the use or enjoyment of the property. For example, if specific areas are encroached upon, zoning restrictions or building codes may restrict the owner’s ability to add on or develop parts of the property.

In general, encroachments can have a detrimental effect on the value of a property and can result in a lower return on investment for the owner.

Preventing Encroachments

Fencing and Marking Boundaries

Fencing and marking boundaries are effective methods that property owners can use to prevent encroachments. Using fences and clear boundary markers can help property owners establish legal boundaries and prevent neighboring parties from encroaching on their land.

Fencing can be used to physically separate the property from adjacent lands while markers can be used to indicate ownership. The use of fencing and marking boundaries can also act as a visual warning to others preventing them from inadvertently or intentionally violating a property’s perimeter.

Obtaining Easements

An easement is a legal right allowing someone to use another person’s property for a specific purpose. Obtaining easements can be an effective way to prevent encroachments on your property by ensuring that neighboring property owners do not unintentionally or intentionally enter and use your property.

Easements are generally granted by a landowner to allow others to access a portion of the land, such as a driveway or utility access. Obtaining easements can also be used to grant you the right to access neighboring properties for specific purposes. It is important to ensure that you are getting the proper easement for your intended use, and that it is legally recorded in the appropriate jurisdictions. When obtaining an easement, it is recommended to have an attorney review all legal documents to ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

Additionally, it is important to consider any potential conflicts that may arise from the easement, such as increased traffic or noise. Properly obtained easements can serve as an effective tool in preventing encroachments and ensuring that your property rights are protected.

Negotiating with Neighbors

The concept of negotiating with neighbors can be a practical solution to potential encroachment issues that may arise when marking boundaries of a property. This approach suggests that property owners can have explicitly documented agreements with other adjacent property owners. Negotiating with neighbors can make for a better boundary marking experience, especially when dealing with strict local building codes or zoning regulations that may require a certain type or size of a fence. By doing this, an official understanding can be reached between both parties to agree on what type of fence or boundary markers are necessary to avoid disputes or ongoing issues down the line.

This can also include negotiating on specific details like the height of the fence or who is responsible for maintenance. Talking with neighbors in a friendly manner, explaining your property boundaries and discussing your concerns can help to prevent potential conflicts and minimize the risks of boundary violations.

In some cases, agreeing on an easement or right-of-way may even be necessary to enable necessary usage of land or shared access to a shared driveway. All in all, negotiating with neighbors helps create clear boundaries that can prevent legal disputes and ensure peace of mind for all parties involved.



The process of identifying potential encroachments on a property is a critical step that should not be overlooked by any property owner or investor. By taking a proactive approach to identifying potential encroachments, property owners can avoid costly legal disputes and ensure that their property rights are protected.

In this article, we have discussed the various types of encroachments that can occur on a property, including physical encroachments, boundary line disputes, and easements. We have also explored some of the common causes of encroachments, such as inaccurate surveys, unclear property descriptions, and neighborly disputes.

To identify potential encroachments, property owners should conduct a thorough property survey, review property descriptions and deeds, and consult with neighboring property owners. It is also recommended that property owners consult with a legal professional to ensure that all their property rights are protected.

Overall, the process of identifying potential encroachments may require time and effort, but it is a critical step in protecting a property owner’s rights and avoiding potentially costly legal disputes. By taking proactive measures to identify and address encroachments, property owners can ensure that their investment is protected for years to come.

Final Thoughts

Identifying potential encroachments on a property is of utmost importance for real estate investors, developers, and property owners. Encroachments can potentially lower the property value, make the property difficult to sell, and even result in legal disputes. Therefore, it is essential to do extensive research and due diligence before buying or developing a property to ensure that there are no encroachments that can cause problems in the future. This includes examining property plats, surveys, and land records to confirm property boundaries and reviewing neighboring properties for any potential encroachments.

In addition to conducting thorough research prior to purchasing a property, it is also important to have a clear understanding of the law regarding encroachments. Legal terms such as “adverse possession” and “easements” must be understood to recognize potential encroachments and take appropriate action. In some cases, it may be necessary to hire a land surveyor to verify property boundaries and to identify potential encroachments.

It is important to note that not all encroachments are intentional or malicious. In many cases, they result from common misunderstandings or mistakes. This is why it is important to approach these situations with a calm and proactive attitude, rather than a litigious one. Taking the time to communicate and negotiate with the neighboring property owner can often lead to a mutually satisfactory solution without resorting to legal action. However, if a resolution cannot be reached, it may be necessary to seek legal assistance.

In conclusion, identifying potential encroachments on a property is a critical step in any real estate transaction or development project. It is important to conduct thorough research, have an understanding of the relevant laws, and approach any potential encroachments with a proactive attitude. By doing so, property owners can avoid potential legal disputes, preserve property values, and ensure a successful real estate investment.

Encroachments FAQs

What is meant by identifying potential encroachments on a property?

Identifying potential encroachments on a property involves assessing whether any part of the property overlaps or crosses over onto neighboring properties, or whether any part of neighboring properties overlaps or crosses over onto the subject property.

What are some common types of property encroachments?

Some common types of property encroachments include fence encroachments (where a fence is built on a neighbor’s property), tree encroachments (where trees planted on one property cross over the boundary onto a neighbor’s property), and improvement encroachments (where a structure or addition is built beyond the boundary line).

How can property owners identify encroachments on their property?

Property owners can identify encroachments on their property by conducting a survey or hiring a qualified surveyor to survey the property lines and identifying physical markers that indicate property boundaries.

What are the consequences of property encroachments?

Property encroachments can result in legal disputes, damage to property, and decreased property value. Property owners may also be liable for any damage caused to neighboring properties as a result of the encroachment.

What are some steps property owners can take to prevent encroachments?

Property owners can prevent encroachments by obtaining a survey before purchasing a property, ensuring that all improvements are built within the property lines, and communicating with neighboring property owners to resolve any boundary disputes.

What legal options are available to property owners in the event of an encroachment?

Property owners can file a lawsuit for trespass or seek an injunction to prevent further encroachment. They can also negotiate with the neighboring property owner to reach a resolution or seek mediation or arbitration to settle the dispute.

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.

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