What is 'Encroachment'

Encroachment is a situation in real estate where a property owner violates the property rights of his neighbor by building on or extending a structure to the neighbor's land or property. Encroachment can be a problem along property lines when a property owner is not aware of his property boundaries or intentionally chooses to violate his neighbor's boundaries.

Encroachment can also be referred to as structural encroachment.

BREAKING DOWN 'Encroachment'

Encroachment brings about a violation of the property rights of the affected property owner. When a property owner trespasses on to his or her neighbor’s property, s/he is said to be encroaching on the neighbor’s property. Trespassing occurs when the property owner enters the grounds of the neighbor or builds a structure that extends past the lawful boundaries that separate both properties. For example, building a fence or retaining wall that crosses property lines, or having a hedge overgrow or a tree limb extend beyond property limits could be seen as encroachment.

A property owner may encroach upon his neighbor’s property in an unintentional or intentional manner. A lot of times, unintentional encroachment happens when the property owner is either not aware of valid property lines or has wrong information concerning the extent to which his property lies within legal limits. If the property survey carried out on the home and used by the property owner to carry out building renovations and extensions is invalid, the property owner may unintentionally encroach on his neighbor’s home or land. Since a property survey outlines the physical layouts of a property including the measurement of metes and bounds, wrong information contained in the survey may lead to a physical intrusion on a neighbor’s land. Unintentional encroachment problems are sometimes resolved with a simple conversation between both parties. However, if the disagreement on whether someone’s property right was violated persists, the issue may be taken to court for a resolution.

Potential homebuyers are advised to avoid properties with encroachment issues. Homebuyers can use existing surveys on the area where the property is located. Property surveys contain information about a property; information which includes directions, public roads, buildings, improvements made to surrounding property, etc. The surveys also disclose whether there are any encroachments on the home for sale or on the neighbor’s home. If the homebuyer does not want to rely on the existing survey information, s/he can obtain the services of a surveyor to conduct new measurements on the home premises.

Structural encroachment also occurs when a property owner builds or extends a structure onto the public roads. In most case, sidewalks and residential streets are public property owned by the municipal government, and a property owner who builds a driveway or erects landscape components (such as trees and flowers) that encroach on the public property, may have the structures removed by the government. Furthermore, the property owner may not be compensated for any damages to the property that occur from tearing down his or her structures.

Encroachment vs. Easement

An encroachment is sometimes confused with easement. An easement is similar to an encroachment in that the activities of a property owner extends to his or her neighbor’s property. However, easements are agreed upon by both parties and compensation is often involved, whereas encroachment is an unauthorized use of the neighbor’s property. An example of an easement can be seen when a property owner, formally or informally, explicitly gives a neighbor permission to access a nearby beach through his property.

While encroachment may occur without the knowledge of the violator, property owners should carry out due diligence before erecting any structures that may fall close to the boundary that separates their property from another. Property owners wishing to make changes near their property lines may want to talk to their neighbors and/or have a land survey done to make sure the work falls within their own property's boundaries.

  1. Property Manager

    A property manager is the person in charge of the day-to-day ...
  2. Property Management

    Property management is the administration of residential, commercial ...
  3. Property Rights

    Property rights are laws created by governments in regard to ...
  4. Property Tax

    Property tax is an ad valorem tax assessed on real estate by ...
  5. Personal Property

    Personal property is a type of property which can include any ...
  6. Encumbrance

    An encumbrance is a claim against a property, often impacting ...
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Use Real Estate To Put Off Tax Bills

    Find out how you can build wealth and reduce your taxes.
  2. Investing

    Investing in out-of-state property

    If you can't afford property close to home, consider taking the real estate plunge elsewhere in the country, perhaps out of state.
  3. Taxes

    Your Property Tax Assessment: What Does It Mean?

    Understanding your property taxes can protect you from financial shocks.
  4. Financial Advisor

    How Does Depreciation Reduce My Tax Bill?

    How the depreciation tax rule can assist real estate investors.
  5. Personal Finance

    Which States Are Community Property States?

    There are nine community property states. Here's what 'community property' means when a couple divorces.
  6. Taxes

    10 Things to Know About 1031 Exchanges

    Real estate swaps grow popular, but traps are many. Here's 10 things to know when considering 1031 swaps. Also: Beware new rules on vacation homes.
  7. Taxes

    How Does a Tax-Free Exchange Work?

    In regards to the sale of property, particularly in real estate, a 1031 exchange is increasingly being recognized for its tax benefits to investors of all levels.
  8. Managing Wealth

    10 Tips for Buying Your First Rental Property

    Buying a property for rental income is a bit different than buying a home to live in.
  9. Investing

    Is Property Management Worth it? Ask Yourself These 8 Questions

    If you own rental properties, ask yourself these questions when deciding who should manage them.
  10. Taxes

    Trade Properties To Keep The Taxman At Bay

    Like-kind exchanges can mean a much lower tax bill on real estate for savvy investors.
Hot Definitions
  1. Capital Asset Pricing Model - CAPM

    Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) is a model that describes the relationship between risk and expected return and that is ...
  2. Return On Equity - ROE

    The profitability returned in direct relation to shareholders' investments is called the return on equity.
  3. Working Capital

    Working capital, also known as net working capital is a measure of a company's liquidity and operational efficiency.
  4. Bond

    A bond is a fixed income investment in which an investor loans money to an entity (corporate or governmental) that borrows ...
  5. Compound Annual Growth Rate - CAGR

    The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is the mean annual growth rate of an investment over a specified period of time longer ...
  6. Net Present Value - NPV

    Net Present Value (NPV) is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows ...
Trading Center