Word of the day
An unauthorized invasion or intrusion of an improvement or other real property onto another’s property, thus reducing the size and value of the invaded property. Common examples of encroachments are the roof of a building that extends over the property line or the front of a building that extends over the building setback line or extends onto a neighbor’s property. Most encroachments are the result of carelessness or poor planning rather than bad intent, as in the case of a driveway or fence built without a survey to find the lot line.
Because an undisclosed encroachment could render a title unmarketable, its existence should be noted in the listing, and the contract of sale should be made subject to the existence of the particular encroachment.
An encroachment is a trespass if it encroaches on the land and a nuisance if it violates the neighbor’s airspace, as in the case of overhanging tree branches. The injured party can seek a judicial remedy in ejectment, quiet title, or injunction and damages. A court can order removal of the encroachment. However, if the encroachment is insignificant, the cost of its removal is great and its creation was unintentional, a court may decide to award money damages in lieu of ordering removal.
If there is any doubt as to possible encroachments, purchasers should obtain their own surveys when purchasing property because an accurate land survey will disclose most encroachments. If a survey reveals encroachments not previously disclosed by the seller, the buyer may compel the seller to remove the encroachment (or to reduce the purchase price accordingly) and pay for the survey. In some cases, neighbors will sign an encroachment agreement, granting a license to continue the encroachment of a wall or fence onto a neighbor’s property.
Encroachments are not normally revealed in the chain of title and thus are not warranted against in a title insurance policy. Also, most standard title insurance policies do not insure against matters an accurate survey would reveal. An extended-coverage title policy often insures against encroachments.
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