How do I Settle a Property Dispute?

Mary McMahon

People facing a property dispute have a number of options for settling it including using a mediator or going to court. Such disputes can include topics like property line disputes, arguments over how property is used, and issues like downstream pollution. Consulting an attorney if a dispute appears likely is advisable to get information about how best to proceed. Attorneys can help people explore possible options and work on reaching a resolution as quickly as possible.

Property disputes may include arguments over how a property is used.
Property disputes may include arguments over how a property is used.

Sometimes, a simple property dispute can be resolved by talking directly with the other party involved. In these situations, it can be helpful to muster supporting evidence for a point of view and to be willing to accommodate and make some concessions to resolve the dispute harmoniously. When property owners live next to each other, starting with a polite overture can reduce the possibility of having friction in the future. Offering to pay or provide labor to resolve a problem like a tipping fence or poorly constructed draining ditch can sometimes smooth the way.

If a property owner does not respond to a polite request or this is not feasible, mediation is another option for resolving a property dispute. Some neighborhood associations offer mediation services or referrals, and in other cases, property owners can approach the court or a public agency to request assistance. In mediation, a neutral third party will hear both sides and attempt to help them reach a resolution. Attorneys can be used during this process and may be helpful if the property owners have trouble communicating directly with each other.

Mediation is not always successful. When other measures have failed, it may be necessary to take a property dispute to court. The threat of a lawsuit may be enough to spur the other party into reaching an accommodation without going to court. If the case does end up going to court, both sides can represent themselves or call upon lawyers to assist them. A judge will hear the matter and make a ruling on the merits of the case.

A potential issue with a property dispute is concern about future relations between the parties involved. Someone who repeatedly brings up disputes may become known as a litigious and irritating neighbor. While people are well within their legal rights to bring disputes to court if they are valid, resentment and ill will can develop and may make it harder to work together in the future.

Discussion Comments


I bought a house with land that has a chain link fence (fence installed in 1970s). The neighbor states the fence is on his property by 1.5ft.

I had the land surveyed and it proves the fence is 0.40' on this property. I had to replace the chain link on the fence, not the original posts, due to the neighbor's neglect of a weed/ivy problem and also a tree on my property (?) that was about 0.40' from the fence.

He had no problem taking the wood from the tree to heat his house for the next three years. Now that I have had the tree taken down, stump ground and fence repaired, he makes his claim. What do I do?

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