House in Neighbor’s Yard

Your house is in your neighbor’s yard. How do you fix a home that is over the property line? What steps should you take with your neighbor?

Q: So the siding of my home is inside my neighbor’s yard. To put it bluntly, your house is in your neighbor’s yard. He put up a big shed very close to my siding. How can I get my neighbor to comply with setback rules to have him move his shed and other things that are up against my siding wall.

A: Neighbor issues. Gotta love ‘em. You can approach your issue in one of two ways: nicely or aggressively.

Approach your neighbor with kindness

Here’s what “nicely” looks like: you can walk over to your neighbor’s home, knock on the door, and simply ask him if he would move these items a bit away from your home. While you’re there, kindly explain to your neighbor your reasons for your request. If you believe the shed and other items are either damaging your home or could cause damage down the road, you might say that.

The idea is for you and your neighbor to work together to solve the odd problems that come up from time to time. In your email, you admitted that part of your home appears to be on your neighbor’s property. Please be aware that your neighbor might be within his rights to demand that you remove that part of your home that encroaches over your property line. His idea of being nice might include not asking you to tear down part of your home while he makes full use of his own property.

It’s a lot simpler – not to mention less expensive- when neighbors try to work things out together without resorting to more aggressive means to tackle issues, which usually means hiring attorneys to handle the issue.

Can you avoid hiring an attorney?

Here’s something else to consider: Frequently, neighbors don’t realize that an action they’ve taken to solve their own problems might cause an unintentional problem for someone else. Your neighbor might be completely unaware of your concerns and could react graciously to your request instead of getting angry or upset. When neighbors have a good working relationship, they take pains to avoid ticking off the person on the other side of the fence. Perhaps this is the case with your neighbor, and if so, then it’s possible your neighbor will move his things further back from your house.

And if you don’t have a good relationship with your neighbor? If you’ve struggled with him over issues in the past (large or small), and never healed that relationship, you might not want to deal with him.

Check local ordinances, zoning laws and building codes

Even so, you should give it a try. If asking nicely doesn’t work, and you’re that concerned over potential damage, you can investigate what your local ordinances require for setbacks on properties. Most municipalities have ordinances that will dictate how far a home, shed or garage must sit from a property line. If you can’t find a specific ordinance for your community that applies to the setback, you can contact your local building or housing department for assistance.

Assuming there is a such a rule on the books, the municipality can cite the owner and require him to move the shed away from the property line. Your neighbor likely will guess that you reported the issue, which isn’t going to do much for your relationship. In fact, your neighbor might turn around and cause a stink for how close your home is to the property line and the fact that your home encroaches onto his property. Basically, your house is in your neighbor’s yard.

That would hurt, particularly if your neighbor could require you to remove your shingles or tear down the part of your property that encroaches onto his, violating your own setback requirements.

Instead of going down that path, we’re hoping you can knock on the door (perhaps with a treat or bottle of something good to drink), and ask your neighbor to do you a favor. Good luck.

Finally, if you have a financial loss, it might be worth looking at your title insurance policy from when you purchased the home.

©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin