Many citizens of Louisiana often face difficult circumstances with their neighbors. Not just the noise or random annoyances but, instead, sheds, plants, trees or other property going across the lot and into their own property.
While a shed that is 2″ too wide is often ignored by the average person, there are very real consequences of allowing this to go on.
Common law dictates that an infringing structure or item, left unchecked, can create new property rights that take away from the individual who has calmly allowed what may be a harmless mistake. Encroachment of a shed or addition to a house can expand the property of the owner of said structure to the detriment of an unassuming neighbor.
According to the ExpertLaw.com
To prove adverse possession under a typical definition, the person claiming ownership through adverse possession must show that its possession is actual, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile, under cover of claim or right, and continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period. These terms have special legal meanings as legal “terms of art”, meaning that their definition for purposes of adverse possession law may be different from a definition you would find in a standard dictionary.
What this means is that a landowner who allows for years a structure or other imposing item to come into their property faces the reality of losing ownership of that portion of their land should they be taken to or prosecute the matter. The law awards rights to people who for years have been allowed rights to the land in what many consider to be unfair and a penalty for politeness.
Louisiana law calls this process acquisitive prescription. The process comes from French law, as many of the codes and principles of Louisiana law derives, and is defined clearly in the Civil Code. Per that Code Article (3446), “acquisitive prescription is a mode of acquiring ownership or other real rights by possession for a period of time.” Further, the law is relatively flexible on the limits that a claim may arise. Under Louisiana Civil Code Article 3447, “liberative prescription is a mode of barring of actions as a result of inaction for a period of time.” This means that claims must arise within a certain time period. However, the law has stipulated that renewal of the time when the party who has benefited from the extended time period admits knowing of the infringement.
While a court might determine this in different ways, the fact that such a taking of property exists means Louisiana citizens must be careful with just how neighborly they are.
To give a general example:
If you own a vacant lot next to a person who has a garage that abuts your lot, and you are unaware the garage is two feet over your lot, that person could end up getting that two feet of property after 30 yrs of notorious open possession. While this might not seem like a lot, when you choose to sell the lot, it could have serious ramifications. The same thing goes for a shed in the back of your lot that you figured was not a big deal but ends up lowering your potential sale by an amount that would never be worth the kindness you showed by doing nothing.
If you find that a neighbor is encroaching on your property with a shed, their home or a variety of other ways, it is important to handle the matter swiftly and not allow time to pass. Doing so can severely limit your legal rights and punish you for what may have been considered to be an honest mistake you were choosing to ignore.
For more information on your legal rights, feel free to contact our firm for a free consultation from one of our attorneys.