justice-smiles-gold-large.pngWhether directly expressed or not, my boundary dispute clients often ask: “Why is my neighbor doing this to me?” The answer to this seemingly simple question lies in the fact that someone believes that they have a superior position.  

Notably, superior position does not necessarily mean superior rights. No, no, no, no. Superior position is the position of the party that “pushes” and doesn’t receive what the politicos call “push-back.”

Perhaps tracing this concept of push and push-back, is instructive. To do so, let’s temporarily suspend this concept from the arena of humanities and social sciences and go straight to the apple – Sir Isaac Newton’s apple to be specific. And here, let’s just skip right over his first two laws and go straight to the third. Here, straight from wikipedia, it is:

The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear. This means that whenever a first body exerts a force F on a second body, the second body exerts a force −F on the first body. F and −F are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. This law is sometimes referred to as the action-reaction law, with F called the “action” and −F the “reaction”. The action and the reaction are simultaneous.

Now don’t give me a slack-jawed – “Huhh?” This is none-other than the idiom: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We all know that one – “you push against the wall, and at the same time that wall pushes against you.”

But, what happens when the push against your “wall” isn’t pushed back by you in turn?Hmmm? Now we are getting to the real crux of the issue in boundary disputes. So, while I am tossing idioms around, here’s another – “nature abhors a vacuum.”

“Robert, your not making much sense here.” Ok, with respect to a neighbor “pushing the boundary [wall],” here’s a general list of how it shakes out …

  1. Sometimes, you don’t even “feel” the push. Your neighbor takes some of your land and you don’t notice. Later, piling on to this insult, you are told that you really “should have been more diligent” and your failure to do so means that the land is no longer yours.
  2. Sometimes, you “felt” the push, but you thought – hey, this is my neighbor – I don’t want to cause trouble, so I am going to let it slide. Slide that is until the next time, or the third time, or the fourth, fifth, sixth … until you finally have had it and now you try to speak up.
  3. Othertimes, you come back from a holiday and my oh my to your surprise you notice considerable changes along your property line.
  4. Perhaps, you conducted a survey and in it you identify that there are [potential] encroachment(s).
  5. Or perhaps, with that same survey above, you consult with an attorney to identify what your rights are with respect to the encroachments and your best course.

How do square this all up? Follow these three rules: (1) as soon as you identify a boundary issue, call a land resolution/land fight attorney – immediately; (2) check with an attorney – who really knows this area of the law – before you just go tearing up someone else’s … landscaped area, lawn, hedge, fence, … what-have-you; and most importantly (3) don’t ever think that a disrespectful neighbor is going to mind their manners if you just let it slide – speak up and follow through with a confirmation of your conversation in a return receipt letter.

This third point is so important, that I going to take a few extra moments to dialate on it.

Remember at the begining of this post when I asked that you suspend the humanities and social sciences as we embarked on a discussion about Newton’s apple? Well, let’s now add those disciplines back in. In other words, let’s go back to that first storied “apple.” Despite, your feigned ignorance – you know the one – I am talking about the apple in the garden of eden from the tree of good and evil.

Folks, I needn’t prosceletize. I am just simply going to say that there are neighbors out there who are “wired a little bit differently.” These neighbors for some reason or another just do not quite get the idea of friendship and neighborliness. And when the squeeze comes down, you will find that these people often have some sort of “infirmity.”

“This is an external manifestation of an internal problem” is how I describe the totality of their infirmity. What I mean by this is that these people have difficulty (quite likely psychological in nature) which prevents them from observing normal, social boundaries. As a result, we probably shouldn’t expect them to recognize boundaries with respect to the land either?

SO, DON’T LET IT SLIDE! Politely confront your neighbor immediately. (You of course are at your own discretion as to whether you decide to seek out the advice of legal counsel as to how best to perform this task.) And by all means, start to generate a record of your protest. If you fail to do so, you may – simply for the lack of evidence – lose your land.

The upshot of that is almost always going to be that your “infirm neighbor” is that much closer to you. Ouch!justice-smiles-gold.png