Bernville, PA asked in Real Estate Law for Pennsylvania

Q: Neighbor survey shows driveway is on my property, how do I resolve this issue peacfully?

Previous owner of neighbor property made a driveway / RV parking spot on my property. New owner survey shows 35'-40' over line. Looking for legal and peacefull way to have my property restored to nature condition.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Answered
  • Cary, NC
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: What are you looking for in terms of a resolution? What is your relationship with your neighbor? These are questions you have to decide to know whether the resolution can be "peaceful" with your neighbor.

If the survey shows the driveway is encroaching, then they either have to move the driveway or buy the land from you. You say you want the land restored so granting them an easement and leaving the driveway in place is not an option.

How long was the driveway on the property? How long have you owned the land? Were you there when the driveway was made? What, if anything did you do? Or the prior owner of your property if you just moved in?

The answers to these questions will also give you an idea of where things stand. It will be easier to make an argument to your neighbor if you have the law on your side.

The problem is that its going to cost money to move the driveway and your neighbor is just not going to be happy about that. If you do not get along with the neighbor its going to make matters even worse.

If you get along with the neighbor, you can have a friendly meeting, show them the survey and that the drive is encroaching and solicit ideas as to how to resolve the situation. If you reach an agreement, I would recommend that something be written up. If you are going to be conveying any property, maybe in another area to move the driveway to, then you need to have a lawyer revise the deeds.

If the neighbors are belligerent or if you have no relationship with them, then I would sit down with a real estate litigation lawyer. Pay him/her for a consult and to review the survey and deeds to both your property and the surrounding property, especially the neighbor's. This will have to be done especially if somewhere back in the chain of title both your property and the neighbor's property had a common owner. Find out where you stand legally and if the law favors you, then pay the lawyer to write a letter to the other side to see if this can be resolved. If they are not willing to do anything, then your only option is to sue and get an injunction directing them to move the driveway. That may or may not be peaceful, but there are some people who refuse to do anything until a lawsuit is actually filed.

Answered
  • Allentown, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: You really need to start by having this entire matter reviewed by a lawyer.

There is an issue, for example, that a lawyer needs to consider right at the beginning. Pennsylvania has a law called the "law of adverse possession." In summary, this law says that, where a person occupies land as if it were his/her own and demonstrates a belief that he/she owns it, if a period of more than twenty years passes, that person establishes ownership under the law of adverse possession. In your case, by putting down a driveway, the prior owner established a claim of ownership. If the driveway was put down more than twenty years ago, you may have adverse possession problems, which could prevent you from doing anything. Also, since ownership in a chain is generally lumped together, you need to look at how long the driveway is in, not how long you have owned your property or the neighbor his.

Also, if it turns out that you do have a viable claim against your neighbor, your neighbor will need to look at whether he has a claim against the persons who sold him the property and, if the driveway pre-dated your ownership, you may have a claim against the person who sold you your property.

Finaly, if you or your neighbor purchased title insurance when you bought the property, especially if you purchased certain types of endorsements, there could be a claim against the title insurance company.

In summary, you would be best advised to review this entire situation with a lawyer.

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