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property/fence line laws on long island

Posted by fman z7NY (My Page) on
Fri, May 26, 06 at 9:07

here is my dilemma. my neighbor and my backyard butt against one another (side by side). there has been a stockade fence there and has been there for approx. 20 years and needs to be changed. the fence shows up on our property survey since 1986. we actually have 2 feet of their property that has been that way for at least 20 years. we talked with our neighbor last year about splitting the cost of that portion of the fence. here is what is on my side of the fence. all of it pretty much butts up against the back of the fence. there are 2 gigantic 40-50 year old maple trees. there are 2 sets of euyonomus shrubs that are each approx. 8 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. there are 2 15-20 foot crabapple trees. there is one 6 foot by 4 foot yew. i know he cant do anything about the maples because they are impossible to move and extremely costly to remove. but, he wants me to cut dowm all of those existing established shrubs. he said, " you can buy new ones, they grow like weeds." and, "cant you just move them up a few inches.". how can i move such large established shrubs and trees on my own. i cant afford to pay a professional to do it. he wants me to lose all this so he can have a 20 inch bowling alley strip of land. he has nothing in his backyard, just a large expanse of grass. i feel terrible about having his property and feel bad about having him lose this space but would be devastated to lose all my trees and shrubs. i am very distraught about this situation. my question is, what are my rights since the fence has been this way for 20 years. i am willing to have him put the fence with the bad side facing my yard and to pay for the entire fence and its installation on that side. it is totally worth my while. he seem hell-bent on gaining that space and has marked the space with posts, string, and landscape paint. i would like this to end in an amicable way where all will be content. please, i am begging for some advice, info, or suggestions from you guys. anyone ever have this problem? i know you gardenwebbers will really understand my dilemma. thanks for lending an ear and for putting up with this long post.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: property/fence line laws on long island

I live in suffolk County, had a somewhat similar problem. The back of our yard faces our neighbor's back yard.There's a hill behind us, and we noticed the ground was sinking and sliding toward his property. We approached him about putting up a new fence with a sturdy retaining wall barrier to prevent further slippage. He got cranky, said we'd better not bother his property. There's no important trees or shrubbery involved, just a hill full of weeds. Not wanting to cause a legal problem , we consulted two local fencing comnpanies about building a retaining wall. Both said they could build a wall for a certain price, but would need a survey. We had a survey from 1981, they said it may not be acceptable. We tried to contact the 1981 survey company, to see if this was true or if it could be somehow "updated" , but they apparently are now closed. So we hired a new surveyor at a co9st of $500 to prepare a new survey, complete with permanent markings . We then had the fence built, no problems. All work is clearly on our property by a margin of about four feet. It looks pretty good. The neighbor hasn't complained. By the way, part of the reason for the fence was to keep his dog from wandering onto our property and bothering our dog. His dog also ate stuff out of our compost pile. Good fences make good neighbors.

RE: property/fence line laws on long island

fman- you have a typical delima for Long Island. In truth the land, fence, trees and shrubs all belong to your neighbor. He has title and pays taxes for the property.

However, I have heard that there may be a law regarding "Adverse Possession" (squatters rights). If you search it on the internet, there is alot of information available. If you really want to keep the plants & property- contact a real estate lawyer and see what he/she says. (This may also snowball into a building zoning issue if you gain the property and the neighbors property is deminished below the minimum sq. ft. requirements for lot size. He may have to go for a Variance to obtain a proper Cert. of Occupancy or some such thing.)

I doubt that your neighbor is feeling generous enough to let you resolve this nicely, so if it is really important to you, follow through with the attorney.

On second hand, you could hire a good landscape company and pay to have the shrubs moved onto your property- then build yourself a nice fence forget about the whole thing.

PS-if you knowing planted on his property- that was your first mistake. Since he didnt address the fence location sooner- shame on him.

Good luck in getting this resolved.

RE: property/fence line laws on long island

Fman...rules and regs regarding fences and the neccessary distance from the property line is a town issue...your town building department has the codes. Under the legal theory of "constructive abandonment", it's possible you could lay claim to that strip of land by arguing (in court..with an attorney) that your neighbor knew for 20 years that the fence was over the line, and in effect, he constructively (if not actually) abandoned that land to you by not correcting the situation sooner. However, since he's asking you to move it now, he apparently isn't going to go along with that theory, so you'd have to fight him in court. Not a good way to keep peace in the neighborhood, and all he has to say is "I only just found out" and the courts aren't likely to take away his land and just give it to you. That being said, anything on his side of the actual property line is in fact his property, and he really doesn't need your OK to just take down the fence and trees himself. As much as I understand your dilemna, he's more in the right here than you are. Personally, I might suggest letting him worry about the cost of removing any trees and shrubs that need to come down (after all, he has established that they're his, so let him pay for it), offer to pay half of the new fence (where it belongs!), and use the money saved to re-landscape. And if you/he needs someone to take the maples down, my guy recently charged me only $1000 to take down 3 maples and a locust, all over 50 years old and 50'+ tall. It may not be as costly as you think.

RE: property/fence line laws on long island

fman - Good luck with your selfish neighbor. I hope you are able to save the shrubs and trees that you like and put up a fence of your own - on the line - that removes his ugly, falling down fence from your sight & make sure the nice side of your new fence is facing you! (Can you possibly put up a fence on the line and plant new stuff & let him deal with removing what he doesn't want? Why should you have to pay to clear HIS land?)


Who is your tree guy? That is an awesome price! I am trying to put up fencing around the perimeter of my yard but I have alot of scraggly hedges, trees and overgrown stuff I am told i need to remove first. I'm on the corner and having no privacy is a drag. In addition, I have a few pine trees that are killing my lawn with all their droppings. I'm in suffolk too. I could really use a good company to help me with these issues. Can you refer me yours?


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