What is Encroachment?

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Encroachment is when a property owner builds on — or otherwise makes use of — another person’s property.

🤔 Understanding encroachment

Encroachment is when a property owner builds on land that is owned by someone else. It can also happen if a property owner starts to make use of another person’s property in another way, such as by planting a garden. When you own property, you have the right to build on it and improve it. For example, you might want to make an addition to your home, build a shed, or put a fence around your property. However, if your building strays into a neighboring property, that may be encroachment. Encroachment can be accidental or intentional. When property lines are disputed, encroachment can be a severe issue.


Say you’re building a fence around your property. It can be challenging to know precisely where your property ends, and your neighbor’s property begins. If you build all or some of your fence on your neighbor’s property, this is an encroachment.


Encroachment is like an offside penalty in a football game...

The offense has the right to stand anywhere they’d like on their side of the line of scrimmage. The defense has to stay on the other side of the line. If a player from either team crosses into the other team’s area, they’re encroaching on that team’s property just as if your neighbor built a shed that is partially on your land.

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What is encroachment?

Encroachment is a real estate term that covers situations where a property owner uses or builds on a property that is not theirs. A typical example is a homeowner who constructs a fence that is partially on their neighbor’s side of the property line.

Encroachment covers both the building of physical structures as well as the use of a piece of property. If a person plants a garden or puts up lawn decorations on land that does not belong to them, this is also encroachment.

Encroachment can also occur if plants, such as hedges or a tree, grow into a neighbor’s property.

Encroachment can happen intentionally when two property owners dispute the property lines delineating the land that belongs to each person, and one intentionally crosses boundaries. Encroachment can also be accidental, where the encroacher does not realize that they are building on someone else’s property.

What are the laws covering encroachment?

Encroachment is described in real estate and property law. These laws cover the ownership and use of land.

A property deed is a legal document that is used to transfer ownership or title of a piece of land from a seller to a buyer. The deed includes a description of the land being transferred.

When dealing with encroachment, the deed to your land becomes important. The description of your property that appears on the deed can be used by a surveyor when determining the exact boundaries of the land that belongs to you and the land that belongs to your neighbor.

To prove that your neighbor is encroaching on your property, look to your deed. It will prove your ownership of the land as well as the boundaries of the land that you own. An official survey can determine whether your neighbor has truly built on or used your land.

What does it mean to purchase a house with encroachment?

If you purchase a house with encroachment, that means that you’re buying a piece of real estate with a neighbor who is encroaching on the property. This could be any encroachment, from a neighbor who has built on the land you’re purchasing to a tree in a neighbor’s yard with branches growing into your new property.

If you purchase a home with encroachment, your options depend on when you notice the encroachment. They're also affected by the length of time since the encroachment started. If you knew about the encroachment when you made the purchase and the previous owner made no efforts to stop the encroachment, you may be seen as accepting the neighbor’s encroachment and claim on the land.

If you notice the encroachment after you purchase your home, you may have more rights to seek a remedy.

How can I avoid encroachment issues?

The best way to avoid encroachment issues is to make sure that you know precisely what property belongs to you and what property belongs to your neighbors. If you know your property lines, you can make sure that you never build on or make use of someone else’s land. It also means that you can speak to your neighbors if you notice that they’re starting a project that could encroach on your land.

If encroachment does occur, the best thing to do is to reach out to your neighbor and try to come to some agreement. You can ask your neighbor to move the encroaching structure or to stop using your land. If you like, you could sell the portion of your property that has been encroached on to your neighbor.

If you cannot agree with your neighbor, you’ll have to get the legal system involved.

How can I find my property lines?

If you look at the deed to your property, you can find a description of your land. This can include a description of your property boundaries based on natural landmarks or manmade landmarks. Some deeds include precise measurements that you can use to measure your plot.

For more exact measurements of your property and property lines, you’ll have to hire a surveyor. Professional surveyors can tell you exactly where your property ends and your neighbor’s property begins and can even leave markers to indicate the property lines. This can be helpful if you’re about to start a project and want to avoid infringing on your neighbor’s real estate.

What is the difference between encroachment and easement?

Encroachment is a situation where someone knowingly or unknowingly builds on or uses another person’s real estate.

An easement is when two parties agree to the use of real estate that one of the parties owns. Easements can cover the use of specific property, such as when a property owner allows their neighbor to use their extra-wide driveway. They can also cover non-specific use, such as providing a right of way. For example, a property owner may grant an easement to allow a neighbor to walk through the property owner’s yard to reach a public park.

What is the difference between encroachment and encumbrance?

An encumbrance is a burden or impediment on a property that reduces its value. This can include a number of things, such as a lien, unpaid property taxes, or an easement that the property owner agreed to that allows others to make use of the property owner’s land.

Deed restrictions — limits on the use of a plot of real estate — are another form of encumbrance. Encroachment is a type of encumbrance because it can impact a property owner’s ability to use their land and can impact the value of that land.

What is the difference between encroachment and right of ingress or egress?

A right of ingress or right of egress describes the legal right for a property owner to be able to enter or exit their property.

Consider this scenario. Jim owns a piece of real estate that is surrounded on all sides by property that is owned by other people. There is no way for Jim to travel from public lands, such as a road, to his property without crossing through someone else’s private property. Similarly, there is no way to exit his property without crossing another person’s land.

This can occur when a property owner divides a large plot of land into multiple subplots, leaving a separate plot in the middle.

A right of ingress or egress gives the property owner with no public route to their property a way to reach it without trespassing on others’ private property. This is typically done with an easement of some sort, such as an easement allowing him to use a shared driveway.

Typically, rights of ingress and egress are included on a property deed, which means that the person taking advantage of these rights does not need to renegotiate the right every time their neighbor sells their plot of land.

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