Self help is the concept that one takes matters into their own hands … and gets them nice and dirty!

Generally, self-help will occur when owners of real property believe certain real property is theirs and they then take some sort of action to clarify that understanding.

What follows often is a call by an affected neighbor to the police who inevitably come out not to solve the problem but rather to confirm that there is not a “breach of the peace.”

Basically, this police call is a precautionary step to make sure weapons don’t come out and that the neighbors simmer down. Ultimately though, the police indicate that the aggrieved party should consult an attorney.

First, notice that the neighbors using self-help “believes that certain real property is theirs”. Here, “believes” and “knows” are different things.

Also, never confuse what a surveyor indicates as your property without first reviewing a sufficiently complete set of facts with a legal evaluator so that you can properly assess the risk that your understanding of your ownership is unfounded and the risks associated with your actions.

Second, notice that the neighbor who is causing the disruption thinks the real property is theirs but instead of speaking to their neighbor “using their words” they just act out.

That sounds like someone didn’t learn how to act in preschool and indeed people who use methods of self-help are often perceived as bullies by the other side.

What this suggests then is that you better be very certain if you are going to make a self-help attempt.

Now these first two ideas should be contrasted with the risk of having the conversation … or more properly correspondence.

[Yes, you should seek to put everything about this in writing. And guess what that means? You guessed it. It means that you should get advice as to what should be in and what should be out.]

Back to the point of the positives associated with the use of self-help, notably it may be more strategic not to signal your intentions to your neighbors beforehand and instead just get in there and do it.

On this score, it is much easier to destroy than to build. The practical upshot of this might be that you remove a fence. But be careful here because removing an existing fence might be determined a wrongful act and thus submitting you to a liability which might create a shifting of attorneys fees and costs.

But you are not done here are you? You now have to get a new fence up … right? And don’t you think that there is a smidge of a chance your neighbors will make it difficult for you to build your fence either by use of legal process or self-help of their own?

Bottom-line, self-help should only be used after extremely careful calculation of the risks and rewards after careful consultation.

Listen, even if you don’t give a hoot about your neighbor, you still owe it to yourself to talk to a lawyer before doing something drastic which is going to cause a rumpus costing untold hand-wringing, several tens of thousands of dollars, and most importantly time.

Of all the insurance that you “might take out” to assure peace of mind, pay for an evaluation and any necessary interaction to prevent what often is a fairly small matter from becoming a major issue which will affect you where you live as long as you are neighbors.

Peace on Earth and Happy New Year 2017.