Introduction: Making sure that someone else does not have title to your property is
very important for several reasons. If someone else claims title to your
property they can potentially take out mortgages on your property while
no one will do so with you. The question below deals directly with this issue.
Question: Dear Mr. Cheng: I own property to a five acre property. Around 6 months
ago, someone built a fence across their property line and claimed that
it was theirs. I disagreed and paid for a surveyor to come out. The surveyor
also agreed with me. I showed the report to my neighbor and they still
disagreed. Recently, I attempted to take out a loan on the property. Somehow,
the bank found out about the dispute and now tell me that they are unwilling
to give me a loan. I don’t know what to do. Should I tear down their
fence? Please help me! Jasmine – Malibu
Dear Jasmine, a five acre property in Malibu is very expensive. I understand
your urgency to get this issue resolved. One thing must not do is take
matters into your own hand. Although it may seem the right thing to do,
there is always the possibility that you are wrong and potentially liable
for your actions. You must use the Court system to take care of this situation.
Only after the Court has made a final decision and given you the authorization
to do so should you tear down the fence. There are two main causes of
action that you will use when you sue. One is a Trespass to Land. The
other is an Action to Quiet Title.
If you prove to the Court’s satisfaction that you own the property
and that the neighbor has wrongfully entered onto your property the Court
will then give you the ability to eject the trespasser. You will be entitled
to damages for the trespass including punitive damages. What is also interesting
about punitive damages are that they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
NOTES: “TRESPASS TO LAND” AND “ACTION TO QUIET TITLE” ARE TERMS USED IN LAW. THEREFORE IF IT IS TOO DIFFICULT TO TRANSLATE
YOU MIGHT WANT TO LEAVE THE WORDS AS IS.