An encroachment occurs in California when a neighbor builds a structure, partly or entirely, on your land. A shed is easy to remove, but a pool or a garage poses a bigger problem.
Before you voice your objections, order a land survey that maps out the property line boundaries. After that, you can have a chat with your neighbor.
The easiest way to resolve any conflict and avoid the expense of real estate litigation is by compromising. Be sure to document the agreement and have everyone sign it.
Suppose the neighbor accidentally built part of their beautiful new pool across the property line. One way to handle the situation to everyone’s satisfaction may be by granting your household permission to use the pool.
Another alternative is to sell the land to the neighbor. If you do this, you may need to update county property records, notify your mortgage lender and modify the property deed.
If you choose to shake hands and do nothing, you’ll need to disclose the encroachment before signing a buyer’s purchase agreement. At that point, the potential buyer can try to work out a deal with the neighbor, negotiate a lower purchase price, wait to address the issue until after the sale or cancel the purchase.
A lawsuit may be the only solution if you cannot resolve the problem any other way. Either you or your neighbor may file a suit.
A quiet title action may occur when two parties disagree about property line boundaries. Perhaps both neighbors ordered land surveys that yielded conflicting results. A judge may agree to a third survey or rule based on expert testimony. In any case, the court’s judgment “quiets” the dispute.
An ejectment action orders the neighbor to remove the encroaching structure. In the case of a pool, this is an expensive operation since you can’t easily remove the offending portion of a swimming pool.
In some states, the encroaching neighbor might claim that the land belongs to them once the other owner passively, without a written agreement, allowed them to use it for five years. However, in California, someone must also have a history of paying the property tax on that land for at least five years to claim adverse possession.
The best solution to an encroachment problem is to work it out between yourselves. However, you may file a lawsuit to reclaim your land if you need to.