Flagstone stairs

Neighbor Issues

In the area of boundary disputes, California caselaw is extensive and, in most cases, long-established. However, as recently as 1994 (with cases following precedent), rulings of the California Supreme Court changed the way that some common boundary disputes now must be decided. Notwithstanding recent decisions, this area remains complex. By helping my clients determine how their cases might be judged under the new law, they can decide how to approach their neighbors while protecting their own property rights.

Another wrinkle in boundary dispute cases can arise in situations where surveys are either erroneous or the earth has shifted from natural causes, resulting in displacement of boundary monuments. In addition, sometimes legal descriptions are inaccurate or erroneous which can result in title problems.

Easements present another problem area. There are many ways that easements can be created besides by a written instrument (grant of easement). Most laypersons, and even attorneys not specializing in this area, do not know how easements are created or governed by law. Particularly in urban and semi-urban neighborhoods, relatively small easement areas can pose significant difficulties for adjoining neighbors. This is especially true in cases of shared driveways, for example. Where written grants of easement exist, the language may be ambiguous, leading to disputes about the nature and extent of an easement. I help clients understand the meaning of unusual easement language and I draw up new easements with great care.

I represent clients in disputes that arise when trees block pre-existing views. These cases typically are governed by local ordinances which encourage parties to come to a resolution of their dispute by engaging in reconciliation processes before resorting to legal action in court. I help clients work through the reconciliation process and, if that fails, I file a lawsuit on their behalf.

Trespass cases sometimes arise in connection with boundary disputes, such as when one neighbor deliberately installs a fence that is not on the boundary line and is calculated to result in a "land grab" of part of the adjoining neighbor's property without that person's consent. I handle such cases, as well.

There are situations in which one neighbor maintains a nuisance on his or her land which is disturbing to another. The definition of "nuisance" under California is very broad: Anything which is injurious to health... or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property... .