If you’re considering buying a property, it’s good to research what is and isn’t allowed in your area. If you don’t know who owns your home, you could find yourself with an unpleasant surprise when it comes time to sell. When buying land or property, check municipal records and speak with local authorities. You can often find out how close neighbors can build to a property line and other information that will come in handy while purchasing land or homes in the USA. Let’s learn how close can my neighbor build a property line.
This can save you tons of money by knowing what is possible (and not possible) before entering into a real estate deal.
There are very specific laws that regulate how close to the property line you can build in the United States of America (USA). These laws differ by state, with some states allowing property owners to build right up to the property line and others having laws that forbid doing so (except in specified circumstances).
Learn More: Is New York A Community Property State
This article will outline these differences in an easy-to-read chart, along with an explanation of each category and example scenarios of what can happen if you try to build too close to your neighbor’s property line in one state but not another.
Distance from the Neighboring Building
The maximum building distance varies depending on the design you wish to construct. It normally measures five to fifteen feet in length. It is necessary to communicate property borders with your neighbor before undertaking any permanent, temporary or semi-permanent work due to the danger of local or municipal fines.
What should you do if you know your neighbor is building too close?
You can ask your neighbor to move his property line back a few feet. There are several ways you could approach him—over coffee or through an email.
You might say something like Hey, neighbor! I noticed your fence is close to my property line—about 5 inches from where it’s supposed to be. Since we’re friends, let me tell you what I think about that [then discuss how you feel about it.] If there’s no room for error in your drawings (which I’m assuming since it’s already built), could you at least move your fence back 3-4 inches? The truth is that once fences have been built, it can cost thousands of dollars to tear them down and build them up again elsewhere on a lot.
What do you need to prove if you want to file a dispute with the county?
First, you’ll need to prove that your neighbor’s tree or fence is encroaching onto your property. You can use photographs as evidence to show a judge. Some counties will provide an official affidavit template to make it easier. If you can’t avoid it, hire a professional surveyor to determine the precise quantity of your property infringed and how much compensation you are due.
It may be worth your while in some situations! Your county might also provide dispute resolution services, so check before you start researching other options (your time is valuable). With that said, be prepared for a pretty cumbersome process—not all counties are created equal when resolving property disputes with neighbors.
Most states don’t even require them to resolve these cases at all. Just because they have jurisdiction doesn’t mean they’re obligated to take action. Also, keep in mind that your chances of success could vary depending on whether you live in a rural area or city and which side of town you live on.
The closer you are to major roads and more populated areas, generally speaking, the more crowded things get. And if that weren’t enough uncertainty for one day, good luck finding out whether your state has any laws governing trees/fences built on property lines!
After filing a complaint with the county, how long does it take to resolve it?
There’s a fair amount of variance in how long it takes for neighbors to resolve issues independently, with mediation sessions, or through a formal complaint process. The Department of Planning and Zoning explains that complaints often depend on how complex your case is, how fast you need things resolved, and whether other third parties are involved (i.e., utility companies). And while most issues tend to resolve relatively quickly once they’re filed, there have been cases where uncooperative parties meant resolution took years.
What if I decide not to file an official complaint with the county and want the issue resolved between my neighbor and me?
Complaining to your county is often a good way to address an issue. It provides you with an official record of your complaint, which can come in handy if you decide to take legal action against your neighbor at some point in time.
However, if you’re only interested in resolving things between yourself and your neighbor, you don’t have to involve your county (or any other government entity).
Instead, approach them directly and ask for their cooperation. People are generally more receptive when they aren’t on the defensive; they might even agree to a compromise that benefits both parties. For example, you could offer your neighbor additional living space elsewhere on his property (and possibly monetary compensation) if he agreed not to build near your property line.
Is there any information available from either the county or other resources that can help answer questions about these issues?
Zoning laws in your county should be able to answer questions about building restrictions and requirements, particularly for single-family homes. There may also be information on deed restrictions or other covenants that might have been placed on your home when it was built or purchased and easements (legally binding permissions granted to utility companies to access a property for infrastructure purposes). You can also search for local neighborhood associations or homeowner’s associations and see if they have any official documents laying out building guidelines. The city clerk’s office might also have information on development within certain areas of town.
Frequently Asked Questions
How close could a structure be to the property line?
Homeowners should verify through the local zoning or construction agency before beginning construction. In some areas, a structure must be 5 to 15 feet away from the property border. You may need to get permission from a neighbor to build in some instances.
How close may I install a fence to my property line?
How Close Can I Build To The Property Line? Fences are normally constructed between about 2 and 8 inches from the property border. Some locations allow fences to be built right along the boundary line, but you’ll have to work with your neighbor and possibly share the expense of the fence.
When it comes to measuring property lines, it’s all about location, location, location. The rules for measuring property lines will vary depending on state or local regulations and even each city within a state. However, in most cases, your neighbor can build as close to your property line as possible (only a few inches away from where you’d want to place your fence).
This rule applies no matter what kind of structure he builds—if it is too close to your property line, legally, he cannot be granted permission to build at all.
If a dispute arises over the issue of how close his house was built to yours, you may have recourse by taking him before an appeals board if one exists in your area or by contacting an attorney who specializes in home-building laws.
Sheena Whitlock, a property expert, and blogger with over 15 years of experience in the field. The knowledge and skills Sheena has acquired during her career have given her invaluable insight into the property management business.
She has done her Property Development BSc (Hons) from the University of Portsmouth and completed her Master’s Degrees in Property Management from the University of Chicago.
As a professional, she has spent time working for various companies as a property management officer and currently works at Asset Info Hub where she shares her knowledge and experience on various property matters with people around the world, questioning their queries via blogging and virtual consulting services.