Monday, July 30, 2007

Today's legal term - encroachment

I thought it might be interesting to talk about legal terminology from time to time. Watching an old episode of The Jetsons was the clincher to start with encroachments.

An encroachment is when a structure intrudes on to the land of another. Usually it is a fence, a garage or some kind of building. Sometimes an encroachment can be on to someone's easement, which is one form of a right to use another's property. A common example of this is a toolshed built over a utility easement.

I cannot tell you how to deal with any particular encroachment because the resolution of such a matter is really done on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it is a big problem, other times it is not. Sometimes title insurance is available, insuring over forced removal or diminution of value or against adverse possession (an interesting topic for another time), and sometimes (e.g., especially with fences) it is not. As we all say, consult your attorney.

Some of you are probably asking: why the heck did you think about this while watching The Jetsons? Because my favorite episode teaches you about encroachments! George is reading blueprints of the building where he works, Spaceley Sprockets, and of the new building its hated competitor, Cogswell Cogs, erected next door. George tells Spaceley that Cogswell built his building six inches on to Spaceley's property, leading to a meeting where Spaceley tells a kneeling Mr. Cogswell to "MOOOOOVE IT". Alas, George read the blueprint wrong and the Spacely building was actually encroaching on Cogswell's land, thus turning the tables and forcing, as I recall, an expensive settlement. (There was, of course, no discussion of adverse possession.)

The episode is also a reminder of why a forced removal endorsement over an encroachment can be a good idea. You can view the show here for $1.99.