Is A Neighbor Trespassing on Your Yard?
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A neighboring apartment building is taking advantage of one owner's yard. Sam gives advice to this homeowner.
Q: I’ve lived in my current house for the past twenty seven years. Years ago, before there were local zoning laws and a setback requirement, an apartment building was built on the western property line.
My problem is that the only way the employees of the building can access the east side of their building is from my yard. Do they have a right to use my yard? Recently they caused some damage and I told them to stay out of my yard.
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A: You certainly have lived in your home for some time. But was your neighboring apartment building there for that entire period of time? In general neighbors and the general public have no right to use any of your property. In places where there are no restrictions on fences, you can place a fence along your property line to keep people from trespassing on your land.
If the neighbor in the past has asked your permission to use your land to access the east side of their property and you have granted them permission, you generally have the right to deny that permission in the future.
On the other hand, if the neighbor has repeatedly and continuously used your property for the last twenty seven years, the neighbor might now have an implied right to continue to use your property in order to keep up the east wall of their building.
While your neighbor would not have obtained any ownership rights to your property, they might have created an easement to use your property.
To determine if your neighbor’s employees have the right to use your land, find out whether there were any easements recorded at the time the apartment building was built.
Next, you need to determine if the neighboring building used your property with your permission. You might have granted permission without even realizing it. For example, permission could be as simple as asking you if they can place a ladder on your property to do some work on their building.
Finally, check with the local recorder of deeds to find out if there are any recorded documents for your area that might give your neighbor permission to use your property. If the building has not been there that long or you have given them permission to use your property, and there are no recorded documents that permit the neighbor to use your land, you should be able to tell your neighbor to cease any future use of your property.
On the other hand, there’s no reason you should foot the bill for any damage the neighbor causes to your property. Whether or not they have an easement to use your land, they should pay to repair to your landscaping.
Please consult with a real estate attorney for more details.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is The REAL U Guide to Bank Accounts and Credit Cards. This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. If you have questions for Sam and Ilyce, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com.