It is possible that homeowners in California and elsewhere will one day find that a neighbor has placed a fence on their property. While this generally happens by accident, it is important to take care of the issue in a timely manner to avoid a scenario called adverse possession. In such a scenario, a court awards the land to the neighbor because he or she used it for many years or decades without issue.
Homeowners can confirm that an object is encroaching on their land by looking at maps provided by local authorities. If the map confirms that an object is on a person's property, he or she may then initiate a conversation with the neighbor who owns the encroaching object. It may be possible to come to a resolution without the need to go to court or get an attorney involved.
For example, it may be possible to agree that the fence or other object will be moved. Property owners should be sure to get any agreement in writing to reduce the chances that the neighbor fails to take action. If a homeowner has a good relationship with the neighbor, there may be no need to take action at all other than to acknowledge the error. That can preserve the relationship without a property owner being subject to adverse possession proceedings in the future.
Those who own residential property may want to have a survey of their land conducted from time to time. This may make it easier to determine where a property line ends and reduce the risk of encroaching on another person's property. If a dispute arises, it may be possible to ask an attorney to help with the matter. Getting advice from an attorney may make it easier to settle the matter out of court.