From the Blog


Disputes between neighbors and adjoining landowners concerning title, boundary lines, fences, landscaping, access and right to use, nuisance and more…. may not be dinner table conversation, but they’re more common than you think.

These kinds of disputes are  HOT TOPICS  always!

We call these cases our “little wars.”

Attorney Jennifer B. Gardner has litigated many of these types of cases.

In Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, it’s not unusual for adjoining landowners to disagree over the location of a boundary line, or the obligation to maintain trees and landscaping or boundary line fencing.

This is especially true in neighborhoods, such as the Hollywood Hills, where there are many non-conforming, curve-linear lots.  Not surprisingly, these disputes often spin out of control and escalate into nasty “little wars.”

The California Civil Code codifies the obligations of adjoining landowners. (California Civil Code Section 840, et seq.)  Excessive shrubbery or fences or structures that exceed 10 feet in height may be considered a private nuisance.  (California Civil Code Section 841.4)

Generally speaking, you can trim trees or shrubs that extend from your neighbor’s property onto yours, as long as you don’t damage the plants.  But that doesn’t mean your neighbor will like that.   An act as simple as trimming an over-reaching tree branch has triggered many lawsuits.

As for boundary line fences….. the old saying “good fences make good neighbors” is true.  California law reflects that and provides that neighbors sharing a boundary line are equally responsible for the costs of maintaining/replacing the fence:

“Adjoining landowners are presumed to share an equal benefit from any fence dividing their properties and, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties in a written agreement, shall be presumed to be equally responsible for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence.” Civ. Code § 841(b)(1).

However, if a fence that’s entirely on the property of one adjoining land owner is not a division fence, there is no mutual responsibility for its upkeep.  And… the location of the fence often leads to bitter disagreements over who is entitled to use what land.

In other words…. one side will claim that the fence is encroaching on their property and that the other side has no right to use the land on their “side” of the fence.

Cases often wind up in court when people disagree about the right to use certain portions of land that one party has used historically to access their property or store things.  Sometimes structures have been built that encroach on to a neighbor’s property.  Things can be fine for years, until they aren’t anymore (for various reasons), leading people to question what their rights are to use that property.

In many of these situations,  surveys and title reports must be prepared to confirm the location of the property line and the existence of an easement.  For many reasons, it’s best to have an attorney communicate with the surveyor rather than the party.

If you need assistance with one of these types of real estate disputes, you can schedule a complimentary 20-minute consultation with Jennifer B. Gardner using this link HERE.

If you are concerned about managing the costs of legal representation, Jennifer B. Gardner has written a legal guide entitled How To Save Money On Legal Fees Before Hiring A Lawyer,” that you can download HERE.  Following the advice in the Guide will help you organize the information relating to your matter and that will make legal representation more efficient and economical.