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Questions about Property Dispute Laws

Property disputes between neighbors, or between owners and tenants, can arise from the smallest of issues. It could be over something as simple as a neighbor encroaching on your space by crossing a boundary line or as frustrating as a tenant who is determined to assert “squatter’s rights” over your property.

Listed below are a few questions on property dispute related issues.

I live in Massachusetts and have a property dispute with a neighbor who has planted trees along the boundary line of our property and refuses to undertake a survey. What are my rights to fight this case apart from sending him a certified letter of dispute?

In most cases, the property owner who is making the dispute would have to bear the expenses of conducting a survey. If the survey results show that the trees were planted on the property of the disputing neighbor, the neighbor could then file a lawsuit for the cost of removing the trees and to recover the expenses of the survey.

I live in Idaho and am in the middle of a property dispute where my tenants refuse to pay rent. They are considering collecting cash for keys but the keys don’t belong to them to sell and they would be in breach of contract. What can I do to fight this case as it will most likely end up in Federal Court?

Your tenants cannot be penalized for breach of contract. As an owner, you would be entitled to actual damages in a breach of contract and also any potential consequential damages. What you could do is place a landlord’s lien on the non exempt property of the renter. As long as your name stays on the deed, the rent will be due to you. You would also have all the legal powers from a landlord’s point of view to fight the case for non-payment of rent. You could go to court and sue for eviction or money damages for rent that is owed to you. If you get a judgment for money damages, you would probably be able to recover the money from the tenants after they move and garnish the account in which the funds are being escrowed.

I am a defendant in a property dispute and the trial begins a few days from now. At this late stage, do I still have the opportunity to select new counsel and postpone the trial?

This may be possible if you file a written request for continuance and tell the court you are planning to change your lawyer. It would be better for you to first locate a lawyer of your choice who would be ready to take up the case. By getting a new lawyer, you also have a much higher chance of success and the lawyer could even file the motion representing you. This would also be good as the new lawyer would need some time to familiarize themselves with your case and the court would most probably allow this. But you would need to do all of this quickly. Your existing lawyer would also need to file a motion to withdraw from the case.

I had a survey done on my property based on a dispute regarding the front yard boundary with my neighbor in Oklahoma. I have now denied him further access to the property. Further to this, his attorney has decided to claim squatter’s rights but hasn’t taken action yet. What legal steps can I take to fight this?

Squatter’s rights, which are sometimes known as a type of “adverse possession”, usually involve “the open, notorious, exclusive and hostile possession of someone's property for 7 uninterrupted years.”

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You could hire the services of an attorney at the earliest to get a temporary restraining order against your neighbor to ensure that your driveway doesn’t get damaged. Your neighbor may counter this with a quiet title action to see if he has successfully acquired rights over the property through adverse possession. However, it is not very easy to attain property using this method.

As a property owner, fighting a property dispute can be tiring and frustrating. Yet, you should make yourself aware of all the rules and regulations that govern property law in the United States to help you understand your property rights better.
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