KC neighbors sparring over fence dispute

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The old adage is “good fences make for good neighbors.” But that's not the case if one neighbor puts up a fence on property the other neighbor thinks is theirs.

When you buy a home, you assume that all the land in the deed belongs to you, but that may not be the case if your neighbor has been using part of your land as their own. That's exactly what happened to Anita McConnell.

“I don't have the money for attorneys, and this is just a distraction in the worst way,” she said.

McConnell is talking about a chain link fence that her neighbor installed in October.

“He moved it right there on the concrete where I can't access my driveway,” she said.

McConnell said the fence has made her driveway too narrow for her truck, so she can no longer use her garage. Her neighbor who moved into his house last year didn't want to go on camera. He said he tried to talk to McConnell about the need for a fence, but she wouldn't listen, so he posted a warning sign a few days before installing one.

Not only did he put a new fence up, but he cut down McConnell's old fence. Even another neighbor was surprised when that happened.

But a survey backs up the neighbor’s claim. It proves the property McConnell's been claiming as her own ever since she bought this house 10 years ago actually belongs to her neighbor.

“Is it really just his to take from me like that?” McConnell asked.

Not necessarily.

Kansas City real estate attorney Mark Epstein says just because a survey shows McConnell's neighbor owns the property, it doesn't mean it's legally his. In Missouri there's a 10-year rule allowing a neighbor to lay claim to a portion of your property if they've been maintaining and treating that property as their own for 10 years or more.

“Sometimes it's a hedgerow. Sometimes it’s a concrete patio. Sometimes it's a retaining wall. Anything that establishes a use or boundary line is good enough,” Epstein said.

Meaning if you (or a previous owner) put up a fence, or installed a driveway 10 years ago, and no one has disputed your right to that piece of land, a judge could now decide it's legally yours. Epstein said the same rule of law applies in Kansas, but you have to have been using the property for 15 years.

McConnell's neighbor, however, insists the 10-year rule doesn't apply and told FOX 4 McConnell has only recently started using the property. So how can we solve this problem? Unfortunately we can't since neither neighbor is willing to budge.

McConnell will either have to live with the fact she can no longer use her garage, or sue her neighbor, something that could cost upward of $5,000 thousand in attorney fees.

McConnell says she hasn't got the money and may just move, no longer willing to live next to a neighbor that she says is unneighborly.

Anytime you have a property dispute, Epstein says the best course of action is to either work out the situation with your neighbor, or go to court. What you shouldn't do is just put up a fence and claim the land as yours. Because if a judge disagrees, then the fence is coming down.