What is encroachment and why does it matter? Encroachment is the situation that exists when a structure is built in whole or in part on a neighbor’s property (definition from US Legal). In short, it’s when a structure or something else extends into the neighbor’s lot or even setbacks. Examples include things like a well or septic system placed on a neighbor’s property instead of your own, a garage built on the lot next door instead of yours (see image below) or an extended garden in the backyard that really belongs to the parcel in the rear.
Example 1: Moved Fence: An acquaintance of mine hired a contractor to rebuild the fence between his rental and the house next door. For whatever reason, the contractor rebuilt the fence about three feet shorter than the original property line. Essentially this contractor’s lack of due diligence created a situation where the neighbor’s property line now encroaches on my friend’s lot. Being that this was a rental, my friend did not notice the issue right away, and the problem has still not been resolved.
Example 2: Addition in Setbacks: Most houses in Sacramento County should have a minimum of five feet between the house and the property line next door. This is called a setback. Unless there is a variance, when an addition is built two feet from the property line, it’s really a clear violation of the setback , which is a problem for at least two reasons: 1) The addition is probably illegal since it was likely not permitted. 2) Encroaching on any setbacks can be a safety hazard in case the fire department or police department needs to access the side of the house.
Encroachment seems more common on larger parcels, and especially parcels with non-rectangular shapes. However, it can show up on any lot. While it’s not an issue on the vast majority of homes, definitely pay attention to potential encroachment if you see the following:
- Something doesn’t seem right about the lot lines.
- The parcel seems a whole lot smaller or larger than described in Tax Records.
- The Listing Agent or seller says there is potential encroachment.
- An aerial view on Google Maps causes you to wonder if the lot lines are accurate.
- You notice the setbacks are clearly not being adhered to.
Encroachment can sometimes be something that lowers property value in light of decreasing marketability in light of potential costs to cure the problem, potential legal issues or the lot having less utility.
Questions: What examples of encroachment have you seen? How did it impact the real estate transaction or the relationship among neighbors? Any stories to share?
If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook