Jump to content


Photo

Neighbors Building a House. Please help!


  • Please log in to reply
16 replies to this topic

#1 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 10 February 2013 - 02:43 PM

I live along a creek out in the country, so to speak. Here, the road is parallel to the creek and the houses are all in a line between. Most of the houses here are river lots, so we don't have many neighbors. There has been an empty lot next to our house for years now. About 5 years ago, a trailer was taken off of the lot and, ever since, no one has lived on the lot. Now there are people suddenly coming next door and looking around at the land, setting markers, etc., in plans to build a house there. Every house along this road is about the same distance from the creek and the road, almost in a perfect line. Looking at their land markers, I can see that they are planning to put their house right smack-dab in the front of their land, right by the road and right near their well. Also, I feel invaded when they come, because they step onto my land to make plans for theirs. This scares me because I don't want to have to have a dispute about where the property line is located.

My question is this; Aren't there laws specifying where a person may build their house according to the area they are building it on? Don't they have to build it in line with the rest of the houses on the street? What are my rights as a landowner, what are their rights and how can I be sure they are doing everyhing legally and not imposing on my land?

Thanks in advance.

#2 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 10 February 2013 - 03:30 PM

I forgot to mention that I live in West Virginia.

#3 adjusterjack

adjusterjack

    Platinum Contributor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,731 posts

Posted 10 February 2013 - 05:30 PM

Aren't there laws specifying where a person may build their house according to the area they are building it on?


They would be your county and/or city zoning and buidling codes which you might find online at your county or city website or you might have to pay a visit to the offices.

Don't they have to build it in line with the rest of the houses on the street?


Maybe, quite often there is a setback requirement in the zoning or building codes. Might or might not be a direct line of sight along the front of the homes but could be. You'll have to research the codes.

What are my rights as a landowner,


You have lots of rights.

You have the right to keep trespassers off your property. If you don't have fences, consider putting them up. Post signs. If you see people walking on your property, tell them not to. If they continue, call the police.

If you don't know where your property lines are, and you want ammunition in case you need to defend a dispute, you'll need to have a survey done. Or, you can just wait and see what happens.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#4 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 10 February 2013 - 06:50 PM

Thank you. I tried researching the topic and found nothing. Well, I did find this forum so that's a plus! I will research the codes. If I have to pay a visit to the offices I will. I also am going to take your advice about the signs and have already considered either building a fence or planting some shrubs along the line. I know where the line is, I'm just not sure they do!

#5 adjusterjack

adjusterjack

    Platinum Contributor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,731 posts

Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:32 PM

If you have trouble finding your local codes, come back and post your city and county names and I'll see what I can find.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#6 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 11 February 2013 - 08:10 AM

I'm going to look right now but, in case you can find a better explanation (as I don't have much knowledge on the topic), I live in Kearneysville, West Virginia and it is in Jefferson County. Thank you so much!

#7 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 11 February 2013 - 08:39 AM

I just found this;

Section 9.4 Setback Modifications
(a) Where the average setback line of at least two (2) existing buildings on lots which are on the
same side of the street or road within two hundred (200) feet of the lot in question is less
than the minimum setback prescribed by this ordinance, the minimum setback line shall be
the average setback line of all buildings within two hundred (200) feet of the proposed
building. However, in no case shall the setback line be less than thirty-five (35) feet from
the centerline of any abutting road or street.
(B) A structure may be located on a common side or rear lot line of contiguous property owned
by the same entity. Provided, however, that the structure shall only be a single family
dwelling or an accessory structure. Also provided, however, that the Land Use Ordinances
of Jefferson County shall view the contiguous lots as one lot for all purposes.
[AMENDED BY ACT OF THE COUNTY COMMISSION ON SEPTEMBER 13, 1990]

It's on this site: http://www.jefferson...nts 12.3.09.pdf

...so basically, they aren't obeying the zoning codes at all! What is my next step? Who do I talk to to report it?

#8 pg1067

pg1067

    Platinum Contributor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 45,828 posts

Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:14 AM

While not legally relevant, I have to ask why you care about any of this (other than possible encroachment on your property).


I feel invaded when they come, because they step onto my land to make plans for theirs. This scares me because I don't want to have to have a dispute about where the property line is located.


This sounds like more than a little bit of paranoia. Is the property line clearly marked? If not, how are these people to know where the line is? Is it really that big of a deal if someone happens to step on your side of the property line? That you apparently haven't erected any sort of fence suggests it's not. However, you certainly are free to ask them not to step on your side of the line and/or to erect a fence (unless some sort of local zoning law prohibits that).


Aren't there laws specifying where a person may build their house according to the area they are building it on?


Such laws typically exist at the local level (and it appears that you have located such a law).


Don't they have to build it in line with the rest of the houses on the street?


We couldn't possibly know. I'm not sure why you think this would be required. However, if it is required, it would only be if: (1) some local zoning law requires it; or (2) the property is subject to some sort of restrictive covenant.


What are my rights as a landowner, what are their rights


These are extremely vague and broad questions. Generally speaking, the owner of one piece of property has no rights whatsoever regarding another person's property. Any exceptions would only exist in local zoning laws or a restrictive covenant.


how can I be sure they are doing everyhing legally and not imposing on my land?


I'm not sure what you mean by "not imposing on my land." As noted above, unless there is some legal restriction, you're free to erect a fence or otherwise clearly mark the boundary line. You're also free to provide the owner of the property with a map that indicates the boundary between your property and the neighboring property. These things could prevent encroachment on your property and would negate any claim of ignorance regarding the location of the boundary line. As far as ensuring "they are doing everything legally," you obviously are free to monitor what's happening. You can also go to the local building and planning office to see if any building permits have been issued and obtain copies of anything that is available to the general public.


...so basically, they aren't obeying the zoning codes at all!


I'm at a loss to understand how you've reached this conclusion. The only thing relevant in the ordinance you quoted seems to be the statement that, "in no case shall the setback line be less than thirty-five (35) feet from the centerline of any abutting road or street." All you've said is that someone put "markers" on the property. Even if those "markers" are less than 35 feet from the centerline of the street, placing "markers" doesn't violate anything. Nothing in your posts indicates that you have any knowledge of the meaning or significance of the "markers."


What is my next step? Who do I talk to to report it?


If, for whatever reason, it is a big deal to you that whatever gets built on this property is built in conformance with the local zoning laws, your next step would be to seek to obtain copies of any building permits and other documents that may have been submitted to the city or county. If any such documents suggest that a structure will be built in violation of the laws, you would want to speak with a local attorney about sending a letter to the property owner, the architect, and the general contractor (to the extent you can identify them based on the documents). You could also talk with someone at the building and planning office. You could even print a copy of the local ordinances and provide it to whomever you see at the property next time.

#9 adjusterjack

adjusterjack

    Platinum Contributor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,731 posts

Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:56 AM

Agree with PG.

They aren't disobeying anything yet and there's nothing to report yet.

All I can suggest is you monitor the building and zoning office to see if any building permits are issued for the property.

Once a permit is issued you can see whether the plans conform to the codes or not and go from there.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#10 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:53 AM

I see what you both are saying. I wasn't going to go into great detail of it all but, since you have asked specific questions, let me explain the situation...
First of all, we have owned our land for over seven years now. The lot next door, as I stated in my first post, has been vacant for about five years now. The same family that owns it now had an RV parked at the bottom of their land, near the creek, for fishing and camping. I don't care what others do to THEIR property! I am not trying to cause a debate with my neighbors. However, the first concern I had was at a time when they came to fish and were staying in the RV one weekend. I am a photographer and there are Canadian Geese that come every year to lay their eggs and hatch them. If you know about Canadian Geese, you know that they find a partner, stick with that partner for the rest of their life, never leave each other's side and, when they build a nest to lay eggs, they do it in the EXACT same spot every year. These geese are found all along the creek and around other ponds nearby. A certain family of them just happens to share the land to which I own. The generations of this family of geese has actually been there longer than I have, if you could just imagine. I document these geese for personal interest. I take pictures and document their progress, watch the babies grow, etc. The day the neighbors were there, they brought their kids with them. Before I tell you what they did (which I'm sure you can already imagine), let me first say that everyone who lives along this creek has MUCH respect for these geese and realizes that they own the land just as much as we do (as well as the deer, birds, and any other form of wildlife we see here). NOBODY here would EVER do ANYTHING to harm them and I can say that with 100% confidence because, just as I have lived here for seven years, the neighbors surrounding me have been here the same amount of time and most of them even longer and we are all friendly here. Now, back to the kids... I went outside with my daughter to see the progress of the eggs (which were layed just about two weeks ago at the time) and, when we got there, the nest was gone and so were the eggs. We saw reminents of the nest and feathers in the spot where the nest was and no sign of eggs. The mother goose was flying up and down the creek in a total panic, making loud screams, and the father was also very close by. We searched around for awhile before glancing into the creek bottom and seeing the eggs from the surface!! They weren't old enough to float yet and so they were surely dead. We fished them out and tried to save them but it was a lost cause. If you have any love for animals, then I'm sure you could understand my disappointment. Nature should be respected in EVERY way, whether it be plants, animals or trees, etc. ESPECIALLY on someone else's land. Now, we couldn't prove that the kids had done this, because we didn't actually SEE the event occur. When you live in the same place for over seven years, though, you tend to know your neighbors and their habits and whether or not they would do something like this or not. Nobody comes here that doesn't live along the creek (besides, of course, this said family), because it is all private property.
Now, my second issue. I don't mind people "stepping" on my land or even "walking" across it. To me, this is God's green earth and we should all share it and live in harmony with eachother and we all like to take our walks along the creek from time to time. HOWEVER, when they "stepped" onto my land to make plans for their own, I happened to be in my upstairs bedroom doing some work. I could hear people talking outside my window and, being that I'm not used to having neighbors on that side of my house and the fact that everyone here respects each other and watches eachother's houses and land when they aren't home, etc., I looked out my window to see who it was. As I was looking, I could hear every word they were saying and there was a strange man with them, helping them make plans for their property. They were looking at MY HOUSE, MY LAND, and MY TERRITORY, as well as "stepping" on it. Now, as I said above, the "stepping" part does not bother me one bit. What bothers me is the fact that they were talking about my land and property and, since my girlfriend was gone in the car, they "assumed" nobody was home. I'm sure you're thinking I should have went out and claimed my land, etc., but that's not me, unless I see them causing harm to it. I also don't believe in eaves dropping but, since they were on MY territtory, then I WANT TO KNOW what they have to say about it. There ARE markers between my land and theirs. They are just metal poles, one at the top, one by the creek and one in the middle of the line but they could be easily missed by anyone not aware of them and so, thanks to "adjusterjack," I am planning to build a fence or plant some shrubbery along my side of the line. I have all the paperwork from when we purchased the land, including the deed and the property lines (map) etc., and I will be sure to do everything in a legal way.
Now, "have they really broken any zoning laws?" No, not YET anyways, since, as you correctly said, they are just "markers." These said "markers," as they showed us the day they came to tell us they were building their house there, are all marked ("front of house", "back of house", "sewer line," etc.) The markers where they are "planning" to build their house are right along the street. Let's see how I can explain this...? Ok, as I explained before, the creek runs behind everyone's house on this street. The road is almost perfectly parallel to the creek and the houses are all in a line, parallel to the creek and the road. Their "markers" however, are placed right in front of the street. Now, if they were to follow through with this plan, the BACK of their house is exactly parallel to the FRONT of our house and thus, parellel to the front of everyone else's house on the street. So, IF they build this house as currently planned, then they WILL be breaking TWO of the zoning codes mentioned above. (1) The fact that their house is not in line with the rest of the houses "within 200 feet" on the street and (2) the fact that their house is, for sure, less than 35 feet from the middle of the road. I also found something else yesterday, after my last post here, which suggests that there are specific laws as to the minimum size a person's front yard may be. I haven't been able to find exact perameters but I will keep searching and surely find out. Let me tell you though, they don't have a "front yard" to begin with (according to their "markers").
Another concern is the fact that their well is located ONE FOOT from the "markers" of the front of their house and I know that their are rules about that as well. WHY does this bother me?? Because I have a well too, which happens to be prallel to their well and parallel to every neighbor's well along the street as well (funny how everything is so parellel, huh? I have been paying close attention to other neighborhoods, streets and roads where houses exist and I am finding that this happens to be going on in EVERY neighborhood in our area). I am also worried that, since their land begins only about ten or fifteen feet from the side of my house, that, if they find out about these zoning codes, they might build too close to my house (which would be violating yet another law). Yes, I will admit, whether you agree with me or not, that I do not want these people moving in next door for MANY reasons. They are alchoholics and I don't want the peace and quiet disturbed in our neighborhood, etc., as well as the plant and wildlife.
I have been researching this topic since the day I made this post and have actually come up with a solution to many of these concerns...
(1) Plant the shrubbery or build a fence along my side of the property line (which has to be so many feet beside the line and I will find out the exact measurements, etc.)
(2) Put up some "Beware of dog" signs, since we do own a dog.
(3) I have found out that any land can be made into an animal and wildlife sanctuary and, therefore I will find out how to do this and do it, keeping a close eye out for further harm to my fellow land owners (i.e. the geese and wildlife) and have them arrested if they do anything else to harm my land or the animals on it.
(4) Put up "Private Property" signs, for obvious reasons.
(5) Make sure they obey all zoning codes and laws while building their house, etc., by visiting said offices and printing out research, etc.

I know that, to you, this may SOUND jurastic, but I will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to protect MY land and its inhabitants. It's alright if anyone thinks I am going overboard or being "paranoid," but, from my PERSONAL experiences with these people, I plan to leave no stone unturned. Also, I KNOW they haven't broken any laws as of today because of the "markers" but, why not catch the problems BEFORE they arrise?? Right?? I mean, if I can prevent the above from happening, which I have GOOD REASON to believe that they are TRYING to make it happen, then why would I just sit back and watch and wait for it to happen and then have to go into a debate, not get along with my neighbors, possibly have more animals and wildlife killed, possibly have to go to court with them and most likely lose things that a court could NEVER replace, such as those geese eggs mentioned above. Five baby geese lives were taken by kids whose parents couldn't control them, care to control them, or teach them right from wrong because they are too busy getting drunk and fishing!!
Please don't ASSUME, however, that someone is just being "paranoid," especially if you don't know the whole story or walk in my shoes.
Thank you both for your responses. You have been a huge help to me and, if I have further questions, I will surely ask!
Nice to meet you both, by the way :)

#11 pg1067

pg1067

    Platinum Contributor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 45,828 posts

Posted 12 February 2013 - 10:44 AM

Paragraph breaks are a wonderful thing.

#12 kassounilaw.com

kassounilaw.com

    Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 33 posts

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:17 AM

Your neighbor does have a right to build a house on his or her property. It does not appear that there is a dispute yet regarding the boundary line. If there becomes a dispute, I would recommend that you ask the neighbor if the property has been surveyed. If it hasn’t, I would suggest that you split the cost of a survey to put your mind at ease.

With respect to the location of proposed development, you should contact your local planning department and ask to review any development applications for the property. Additionally, local zoning ordinances usually dictate setbacks from property lines. A local building department authority may be available to help you find what your neighbor has submitted as proposed development and the legal setbacks.

Going first to the building department for help is much more cost-effective than getting a property lawyer or land use lawyer involved.

Edited by FindLaw_AHK, 14 February 2013 - 09:32 AM.
As per the Community Guidelines, links to personal web pages or blogs may be included in the signature line. Other personal or identifying information in this post has been removed. -Moderator

Timothy Kassouni

555 Capitol Mall, Suite 900

Sacramento, CA  95814

(916) 930-0030

timothy@kassounilaw.com

http://www.kassounil...ppeals-lawyers/


#13 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*
  • Guests

Posted 14 February 2013 - 09:34 AM

Have you contacted the planning board for any updated permits submitted?

#14 MTO1948

MTO1948

    New Member

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 14 February 2013 - 10:28 AM

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703-712; Ch. 128; July 13, 1918; 40 Stat. 755) as amended by: Chapter 634; June 20, 1936; 49 Stat. 1556; P.L. 86-732; September 8, 1960; 74 Stat. 866; P.L. 90-578; October 17, 1968; 82 Stat. 1118; P.L. 91-135; December 5, 1969; 83 Stat. 282; P.L. 93-300; June 1, 1974; 88 Stat. 190; P.L. 95-616; November 8, 1978; 92 Stat. 3111; P.L. 99-645; November 10, 1986; 100 Stat. 3590 and P.L. 105-312; October 30, 1998; 112 Stat. 2956
The original 1918 statute implemented the 1916 Convention between the U.S. and Great Britain (for Canada) for the protection of migratory birds. Later amendments implemented treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union (now Russia).
Specific provisions in the statute include:[list]
[*]Establishment of a Federal prohibition, unless permitted by regulations, to "pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird." (16 U.S.C. 703)
[/list]
This prohibition applies to birds included in the respective international conventions between the U.S. and Great Britain, the U.S. and Mexico, the U.S. and Japan, and the U.S. and the Russia.


The Canadian Goose is included in this treaty. It is Federal Law and can be reported to Fish and Game. Hope it helps.

#15 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 15 February 2013 - 09:46 AM

Thank you both and, no, I haven't been able to contact them yet. I am planning on doing so. I work a lot and don't have time all the time to do this but, once I first find the number, I will certainly contact them.

PG> Yes, paragraph breaks are great. Glad I answered your questions since you have no further comment. Thank you for not criticizing me this time. Criticizing breaks are a wonderful thing! Especially by people you don't know...

I just have one more question...
Along with the email sent about this topic having a new reply, I was sent a "Migratory Bird Treaty Act." It says everything I need my neighbors to know and I am just wondering if maybe posting this on a sign by the creek where they nest would also help? I was thinking I could post one on my property and then go and knock on all my neighbor's houses and give them one to post on their land if they choose to do so, which I'm sure they would. Should it ba a sign stating this act or should it say something else? Any further advice on this would be excellent! Thank you all for helping. This has been great and my mind is already being eased.

Thank you so much!

#16 MTO1948

MTO1948

    New Member

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 15 February 2013 - 10:22 AM

Well, I live in Texas and I posted several bright yellow signs along my property line saying Posted, Migratory Birds Protected. I don't want to encourage you to get into any dispute with neighbors, but that is what I did.

#17 Artsiegrrrl

Artsiegrrrl

    New Member

  • Members
  • 8 posts

Posted 19 February 2013 - 12:19 PM

Thank you. I will do that :)




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users