As poet Robert Frost said in Mending Wall, "good fences make good neighbors." However, in some cases, even a good fence can present problems. Many homeowners find themselves in boundary line disputes or other arguments with neighbors who have constructed illegal variances on their property. If your neighbor's new fence or patio is encroaching upon your land or creating water run-off issues, do you have any recourse? Here is how many jurisdictions handle these problems, and steps you can take to correct this situation.
Check your zoning laws
Whether you live within the city limits or out in the county, your jurisdiction should have zoning laws and regulations governing residents' construction and home-improvement projects. A compilation of these laws is generally available on your city or county council's website. In many cases, the zoning laws will clearly set out the circumstances under which your neighbor could lawfully construct or alter part of his or her property.
Look at county records
Even if your neighbor's construction project appears to conform to local laws, there may still be some options at your disposal. Most cities and counties will require the homeowner to apply for a permit before beginning any substantial project, and these permits should be available for public viewing at your county auditor or assessor's office. Even if your neighbor's project otherwise conforms to all applicable laws and regulations, the absence of a city or county permit may require your neighbor to dismantle the project and start over.
Contact your city or county council
Zoning violations are in the area of administrative law, meaning that they are generally not decided by the courts, but by an administrative body such as a city or county council like Timothy G. Mara. In some cases, a homeowner who wishes to build something outside the bounds of or not addressed by current zoning laws must apply directly to the council for permission to begin constructing. These meetings are open to the public, and you should be able to attend to share your opinion on how your neighbor's planned project may negatively affect the community.
If the project has already been completed, you can still contact the council (preferably in writing) to lodge a complaint. The council will consider and take action on your complaint in a public session, and may ask you to attend or provide further information. This option is not for the faint of heart, as it will likely taint your relationship with your neighbor going forward.