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Healy v. Antaki

A-2108-07T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

ENCROACHMENTS — There is no legal support for the proposition that one property owner is compelled to maintain a natural buffer to provide privacy to its neighbor.

Without an attorney, a homeowner sued her adjoining neighbors alleging they trespassed and defaced her property. She alleged that her natural tree and shrub buffers were destroyed. At trial, her neighbors testified that the trees in question were on their property and the only thing removed from the owner’s property was a Sumac tree that the neighbors characterized as a weed. The neighbors admitted trespassing, but only to clear some overgrowth not to cut any shrubs or trees on the complaining owner’s property. The neighbors also admitted to planting three encroaching lilac bushes on the complaining owner’s property and agreed to remove them upon notice.

The lower court dismissed the complaint, finding the neighbors’ testimony credible. It found, despite the trespass, no resulting damages. The homeowner appealed, raising an adverse possession claim and arguing this contributed to her damages.

The Appellate Division held that the lower court’s judgment was based on findings of fact adequately supported by the evidence. The Court found that the adverse possession claim could not be based on the presence of the lilac bushes because such a valid claim requires a thirty year period without protest. Additionally, the Court found no law supporting the proposition that the neighbor was compelled to maintain a natural buffer to provide privacy to the complaining owner.

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