A license is a personal privilege (not a right) to enter the land of another for a specific purpose. A license can be terminated or canceled by the licensor (the person who granted the license) at any time.
- If the use of another’s property is given orally or informally, it generally is considered to be a license rather than a personal easement in gross.
- A license ends on the death of either party or the sale of the land by the licensor.
An encroachment occurs when all or part of a structure (such as a building, fence, or driveway) illegally extends beyond the land of its owner or beyond the legal building lines.
An encroachment usually is disclosed by either a physical inspection of the property or a spot survey.
A spot survey shows the location of all improvements located on a property and whether they extend over the lot or building lines onto an adjoining property or an improvement on an adjoining property extends onto the property being surveyed. A spot survey is more informational and useful than a simple survey sketch with only the lot dimensions. If a spot survey and physical inspection show that a building encroaches on adjoining land, the neighbor may be able to either:
- recover damages,
- or secure removal of the portion of the building that encroaches,
Unchallenged encroachments that last beyond a state’s prescriptive period, however, may give rise to easements by prescription.