Hugh J. M. Jones, III, P.C. Hugh J. M. Jones, III, P.C.

Property line disputes can turn good neighbors into serious enemies really quickly, so it's always in your best interest to settle a boundary issue with a minimum of fuss. Otherwise, what starts out as nothing more than a simple mistake can morph into a complicated lawsuit.

Do you think that your neighbor may be encroaching on your land? Here's what you should do to resolve the boundary dispute:

1. Research your boundary lines.

Don't assume that you know your property's boundaries just because you've always believed them to be in a certain location. Review your plat, which is the official document that shows the boundaries around your property. If you can't locate it in your paperwork that you obtained during purchase, you can usually access it online through your local county government.

Make absolutely certain that your property's boundary lines are where you believe them to be before you make an issue of an encroachment.

2. Gently talk to your neighbor.

Assume that your neighbor has no idea that he or she is encroaching on your property and that he or she will want to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Keep your tone pleasant and polite, even if your neighbor seems momentarily upset or defensive. Remember, you are probably delivering some unexpected and unpleasant news.

3. Offer to help your neighbor fix the situation.

Kindness and a cooperative spirit can go a long way toward keeping things friendly with the neighbors. Whether it's the start of garden or part of a fence that's encroaching your land, offer to help your neighbor move the offending structure.

4. Consider hiring a surveyor.

If you and your neighbor still can't agree on the boundary, consider hiring a surveyor. The surveyor can perform a determination and show you and the neighbor exactly where your boundaries are.

The one thing you can't do in this situation is ignore the issue. Any encroachment on your property now spells trouble in the future. It can affect the value of your property and your ability to sell it. If nothing else works to resolve the issue, a real estate attorney can help you.

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