Before your neighbor can begin a construction or remodeling project on his property, he must go to his local planning board to obtain a permit and must notify the neighborhood. Afterwards, the town will hold a hearing, which the public may attend, to determine whether granting the permit is proper.
Once granted, the permit can be revoked when certain problems arise. If your neighbor’s permit is revoked, he will have to stop construction.
Landowners have the rights to subjacent and lateral support from his neighbor’s property. Essentially, your neighbor cannot perform any construction on his property that will compromise your rights.
Subjacent support is the support from underneath your property. It means that your property will stay leveled and the foundation will not be shifted. For example, if your neighbor excavates part of his property and causes your house to shift down, then your foundation may be compromised. This may be evidenced by an increased difficulty in closing your doors or windows.
Lateral support is support from your neighbor’s property that prevents landslides, landslips, cave-ins, and floods. For example, your neighbor cannot dig on his property if it causes your house to slide down a cliff.
When your neighbor’s construction starts to compromise your subjacent and lateral support, you may ask the local planning board to revoke his permit. To do so, you will need to file a complaint and wait for the new hearing date. Whether or not the construction stops will be determined at the hearing. Thus, filing a timely complaint is necessary to prevent further damage to your property.
At the hearing, alternative resolutions will be proposed. Instead of stopping construction, your neighbor may be required to fix the damage to your property and/ or have his insurance company pay you damages. For example, if you allege that foundation is being compromised, the local planning board may require your neighbor to pay for a structural study, fix the actual property damages, and have his insurance company pay you statutory damages.
If you are unsatisfied with the decision of your local planning board or if your neighbor continues to damage your property, then you may file a civil suit for an injunction. An injunction would prevent your neighbor from continuing with his construction.
If you believe your subjacent and lateral rights are being violated by your neighbor’s construction, then you should contact a real estate attorney. A real estate attorney can help you determine the proper steps to take. Moreover, an attorney can represent you at your local planning board and in court.