Don’t Fence Me Out: Neighbors, Fences and Adverse Possession.

The old poem “good fences make good neighbors” isn’t always true. Sometimes fences between neighbors cause legal disputes. In today’s post we will take a brief look at how that might happen and what Georgia’s laws on adverse possession entail.

What is Adverse Possession?

Adverse possession is a legal means by which a stranger (i.e., a “trespasser”) can acquire title to real property. For example, if your neighbor builds a fence that encroaches on 3 feet of your land, he might be able to ultimately obtain legal title to that  land. The legal theory applied to do this is adverse possession.

However, before your neighbor can take your land away from you just by building a fence on it, he must meet a number of specific legal requirements. The statutory laws on adverse possession vary from state to state, so please consult with experienced counsel where you live to find out what your state’s specific requirements are.

However, in general, the law requires that a trespasser’s possession of another’s property be:

  • Open and notorious
  • Hostile
  • Continuous
  • Exclusive

Each one of these legal elements has specific requirements that must be met. For example, “hostile” does not mean that the person possessing your property must be nasty. It simply means that he must hold or take control of property (for example, fencing off 3 feet of land that belongs to you) against the rights of the true owner (you).

If every one of the requirements for adverse possession (in addition to any requirements regarding paying taxes on the property) are met and proved, then the adverse possessor will be entitled to the property he is occupying.

In Georgia, the law on adverse possession is frequently referred to as “squatters rights” laws. Georgia’s laws provide that a person who occupies a piece of land or a portion of it who is not the title owner, may nevertheless attain ownership of that land in two different ways:

  1. under certain conditions after 20 years, or
  2. under “color of title” for 7 years.

Color of title is a legal principle that allows an individual who has a legal, but defective claim to property, such as possessing a deed that is also held by someone else, to claim title to that property through adverse possession after 7 years.

Understanding when and whether squatter’s rights laws and adverse possession apply to any particular situation is not a simple task. If you believe your neighbor’s fence or other activities may be encroaching on your property rights, you should consult with experienced real estate counsel.

We Can Help You With All Your Real Estate Needs.

At the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C., we understand real estate. Our practice is concentrated on real estate and related litigation issues.  We serve clients in Atlanta, and in a number of counties throughout Georgia, including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County, among others.  To find out how we can help you, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or contact us here.