Governor signed Chapter 269 of the Session Laws of 2008, which significantly amends the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law in New York State. What does that mean for the average homeowner and neighbor embroiled in a dispute over property lines or boundariesr? Only time will tell, but it appears that it may become more difficult to prove that you own a portion of your neighbor’s property if you do not have a “good faith” claim of right to such property.
In the aftermath of two fairly controversial rulings by the Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) and a mid-level appellate court, the Legislature decided that homeowners (and their real estate litigators) needed a better definition of what it means to “adversely possess” a piece of your neighbor’s property. The new law significantly alters the requirements that must be met before courts will find that title to real property has changed under the doctrine of adverse possession.
Under the new law (effective July 2008), which actually changes various parts of other laws, the Legislature seems to have expressed the view that the existence of minor, non-structural encroachments such as fences, hedges, shrubbery, plantings, sheds and non-structural walls are deemed, as a matter of law, to be permissive and non-adverse. In every day terms, the existence of fences, planters, hedges, shrubbs, and similar objects often placed on or close to your property line will not change who actually owns that slice of property, and will not give rise to a claim for adverse possession. Just because you put your fence on a piece of your neighbor’s property, does not mean you own the property– there are various other facts and conduct required.