Is it Legal for My Neighbor to Claim Private Use of the Sidewalk if it Prevents Egress and Ingress to the Backyard of My House?

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“I live in a townhouse, 2nd unit from the end. My neighbor, who owns the end unit, is trying to prevent me from walking on the sidewalk that goes around her house, leading down the hill to the backs of our townhome group. She claims that since the sidewalk in on her “plat”, it is her private property and we can’t use it. Our HOA doesn’t allow fences, or any signs to be erected, so my question it legal for her to claim private use of the sidewalk if it prevents egress and ingress to the backyard of our house? Every time we walk on it to take trash out to the front pickup area, she calls the police. Please help!”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

I’m guessing that the police haven’t arrested you for trespassing yet, nor has your neighbor successfully sued. That’s a good sign that she’s full of hot air, but hardly a guarantee.

For the real legal answer, you’re going to have to look at hour HOA documents: the maps and rules that specify (amongst other things) what is an individual’s unit and what is a shared resource. My guess, if I had to guess, is that it’s unlikely that whoever developed the townhomes wouldn’t have made it impossible to access a unit’s back yard. Unlikely, but not impossible; sometimes people make mistakes.

Once you do your research and find out whether the path is exclusive to your neighbor or not, you still have the problem of the neighbor. That’s a little trickier, and that’s where I might try to enlist the aid of a third party–perhaps your HOA board, or a local real estate attorney. I’d try the board first, as they tend to be cheaper.

In the long run, though, you’re going to have to come to some sort of agreement with your neighbor. Or one of you will have to move.

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Author: House Attorney

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