If a neighbor builds a home, driveway or even a fence on part of your property that adjourns his, then he is encroaching upon your land. Depending upon the nature of the imposition and obstruction of use, it is a unlawful property interference act. The type of court relief you may be granted, if any, will be based upon your awareness of the encroachment, type of action taken and the California Statute of Limitations bar for encroachment claims, according to the website First Tuesday Journal.
Types of Property Encroachment Claims
If a neighbor decides to plant trees or even construct a garage on part of your adjourning property, this encroachment is considered an interference with the owner’s use of the property. The property owner can go to court to file an encroachment claim that is designated as a property trespass, or a claim based on the encroachment being continuing or a permanent nuisance. (reference - website First Tuesday Journal)
California Encroachment Statute of Limitations
Sometimes a person is aware that a neighbor is constructing a fence or building and decides to not halt the encroachment, but waits several years to remedy the encroachment . This type of delay, may bar his legal action. In California, if a person waits three years and a day to bring a court action against someone for property encroachment, state law allows the court to dismiss the case. The plaintiff ‘s encroachment action, “ for trespass upon or injury to real property, must be brought within three years after the accrual of the cause of action,” according to the website Justia.
Relative Hardship Doctrine
California courts have ruled that there are undue hardships that should be taken into consideration when determining whether to grant an injunction and or relief, in a property encroachment case. Courts have developed a Relative Hardship Doctrine in order to achieve a balanced and equitable result. Courts will consider implementing the doctrine if the encroachment is an innocent action and the encroaching neighbor will suffer significant monetary injury if the encroachment is removed. Judges will also applying the doctrine if removal of the encroachment, “would disproportionately cause greater hardship to the encroaching neighbor than, to the adjacent homeowner,” according to the website Your Legal Corner.
Doctrine of Laches in Encroachment
The Doctrine of Laches may bar a property owner from obtaining legal relief in California, if he is fully aware of the encroachment upon his property and knowingly allows the improvements on the land to continue. By not informing the person who is encroaching and waiting to delay legal action, the property owner is being unjustly enriched. The California Supreme Court has ruled that although delay alone is not necessarily a cause of action, if a plaintiff engages in unreasonable delays, “in asserting or diligently pursuing the cause and the plaintiff has acquiesced in the act, or the delay has prejudiced defendant, the action is barred," according to the website Rominger Legal.
Read More: What Is an Encroachment Agreement?
Kevin Fobbs began writing professionally in 1975 and has been published in the "New York Times," "Detroit News," "Michigan Chronicle," "Soul Source" magazine and "Writers Digest" magazine. Fobbs obtained a political science and journalism degree from Eastern Michigan University and attended Wayne State University Law School.