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Attorney Wayne
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Experience:  Practicing law since 2000.
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Our fence line has been in existence for forty years. Now

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Our fence line has been in existence for forty years. Now the new neighbor to our south is insisting that we are four inches on his land, and he insists we move. Must we?
Good Evening.Customer

Depending on the state you live in, the law protects people who have continuously, openly and "notoriously" (and often accidentally) made use of land from being evicted decades later. Unfortunately, it is not an easily adjudicated matter -- which is why the local recorder said it would need to be taken to court. There may be documents that previous owners signed that allowed the fenceline without giving away ownership rights -- or a previous owner may have taken legal action to get the 4 inches back. If so, there would be no rights for you to continue holding the land.

However, if no such documents exist, a legal doctrine known as "adverse possession" may come into play. Again, its not easy to determine if it applies without a lawyer who is familiar with your state and local laws looking at things closely.

It may be that the neighbor will end up taking it to court. In which case, I do suggest that you engage a lawyer. If you are unable to pay for a lawyer yourself, you can often find legal assistance for free or reduced fees. The American Bar Association has an interactive website at which you point at your state, click, and then a list of free and reduced fee legal services pops up for your area:

I wish you all the best in your efforts to keep your property the way its been for four decades. Sincerely, XXXXX XXXXX
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
This was information I was already familiar with. I had hoped you would have something new. It seems rather ridiculous to fight over four stinkin' inches, but our motorhome won't fit on the driveway without those extra inches. Further, we purchased from the original owner who is now deceased, 2'X45' with a bill of sale. We informed the realtor and the new owner, and the new owner verbally said he saw no problem with that. Now, he says our beautiful NEW motorhome is ugly, and he wants it removed. We have removed the gutters from the overhang, but it still won't fit without those extra inches. We had the lot surveyed in 2002, and they said that WAS our property line. However, that company is no longer in business as he retired. What now? We had a stake from that survey on the back corner, but our neighbor behind removed it when doing some upgrades to his property. I am a retired educator, and I don't have much money. I really don't want to go to court. Any ideas? This guy is a piece of work.
Wow. This really is painful! I would really encourage you to seek free legal assistance in your area, since you say are retired and cannot afford lawyers. There are many services that can help people in your situation. It sounds like you have quite a bit to support your position (and I say sounds, because a lawyer would really need to look over the documents to make a more definitive assessment).

Which state do you live in? And which county or town? I may be able to give you some more precise legal service or legal clinic operations where someone can run with this properly.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
We are in Sacramento, CA. Sacramento County. I spoke with an attorney by phone, and he agreed with your assessment that we had a case, but he said the cost to take it to court would be prohibitive and that such a small piece of land would not be worth thousands of dollars. My husband tried to talk to the neighbor, but the neighbor just shut him out. I have lived in this house for forty years with no problems with my neighbors. Now this young man is making things really difficult. He has even gone to other neighbors and complained about us. Fortunately, those neighbors have known me for years and wouldn't discuss it with him. But they did tell us what he is doing. Really sad.
Wow. This must be truly painful!

I did not see mention of this difficult neighbor having filed or commenced any legal actions (e.g. a lawsuit). If he does, here is a list of free or reduced fee legal service agencies or legal clinics in Sacramento County that might be able to help, or would certainly give you local referrals to those able to assist with this matter:

1. Legal Services of No. Califoria (NNN) NNN-NNNN
2. Voluntary Legal Services (NNN) NNN-NNNNbr />3. California Senior Legal Hotline (NNN) NNN-NNNN

I do hope he comes to his senses -- but if he does not, I believe you should find some avenues for assistance at the numbers listed above.

If he takes any action without a court order (e.g. like when he removed the survey stake) you may also want to call the police.

I wish you all the best in resolving this! Sincerely, XXXXX XXXXX

P.S. If you are satisfied with the service, please click on the "accept button."

Edited by Attorney Wayne on 10/1/2009 at 1:36 AM EST
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