Can A Neighbor Claim My Land by Mowing It?

It’s unlikely you’ll lose your land just because your neighbor mows your lawn sometimes, but adverse possession laws don’t make it impossible.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
A neighbor can’t claim your land simply by mowing your lawn—they will have to prove they’ve met all the other criteria of adverse possession before making a claim on your land. 
A friendly neighbor who offers to mow your lawn for you doesn’t seem all that malicious, but things can take a sinister turn if they’re doing so with bad intentions. Although highly unlikely to end in their favor, your landscaping-conscious neighbor could be trying to lay the foundation for an adverse possession claim of your land. You may be wondering what that means and how you can prevent it.  
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Can a neighbor claim my land by mowing it?

It may sound crazy, we know, but there is a legal principle that would support a neighbor claiming your land by mowing it, called adverse possession. The specifics of adverse possession laws depend on the state you live in, but adverse possession essentially makes it legal for someone to claim land that wasn’t theirs if they meet all necessary criteria. 
Generally, those attempting to make adverse possession claims will need to prove:
  • They performed the sole care and maintenance of a piece of land or property for at least 10 consecutive years
  • They performed that care without the consent of the actual owner
  • They have been caring for the land or property openly and conspicuously
These rules shift from state to state, though. For example, Arizona adheres to the 10-year statutory period. In Michigan, however, your neighbor would have to have been openly caring for your land without your permission and without another party's involvement for at least 15 consecutive years before they’d have a case. 
That said, it is unlikely that a neighbor can claim your land simply by mowing the lawn
For their mowing of your lawn to be included in their claim case, they would have to prove they did not have your permission to maintain it, and they would have had to be the only person to maintain it for at least 10 years consecutively
So if you’re openly and obviously present at your property, given some form of consent for your neighbor to mow your lawn, or performed lawn maintenance in the statutory period, their case won’t get very far. 
This is not to say that this could never happen, though. There are examples of successful adverse possession claims based on a neighbor’s subtle but persistent actions—like mowing the lawn for 10 years straight. 
However, a valid claim that’s able to enter the courts is the fulfillment of all adverse possession criteria in your state. 

Encroachment and trespassing 

As a property owner, you must know your property rights and are conscious of the property rights of your neighbors so you can avoid any sticky situations (i.e., losing your land to a meddling neighbor). 
Encroachment on land is a violation of property rights that happens when a property owner, knowingly or not, accesses or builds on another’s property, like building a fence or maintaining a garden that crosses over a property line. 
A neighbor is trespassing when they intentionally access your property without your permission. This can be as simple as crossing your lawn to reach the road. 
If your neighbor maintains your lawn without your permission, but you’re present at the property, you could file a trespass or encroachment complaint against them. And while it’s better to first have a neighborly discussion explaining you’d prefer to care for your own property, filing official complaints against your neighbor will create a paper trail in the courts that makes it even less likely that a neighbor could claim your land by mowing it. 
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Can a neighbor claim my land if I have neglected it?

Let’s say you’re not the most attentive landscaper in the world, or maybe you own a property that you don’t visit very often. Can a neighbor claim your land by mowing it under these circumstances? 
The official answer varies from state to state but for a neighbor’s claim to be valid, they need to meet the adverse possession criteria. So, if you own a property but don’t live there or visit often, you may be at risk of a neighbor claiming your land if they: 
  • Openly and obviously treat the land as if they actually own it 
  • Care for and maintain it
  • Spend at least 10 years being the sole caretaker with the intention to possess the property and without the permission of the owner

Can I stop my neighbor from mowing my lawn?

You do not have to allow your neighbor to mow your lawn. And even if they have mowed it in the past or somehow end up mowing it again in the future, they will not have an adverse possession claim as long as you, the actual owner, has also cared for your lawn or offered them explicit consent to maintain it. 
Total negligence of your land on your part makes it easier for a neighbor to claim your land—but the odds are against them. They’ll likely know that your property is yours, which means they’re trespassing. 
If you want to stop your neighbor from mowing your lawn, the best first move is to speak with them. Politely let them know that you are taking care of your land and don’t need them to do it. Should that not work, consider placing physical barriers, like a fence or a sign along your property line, so it’s clear where your property begins. 
As a last resort,  you could get legal help and charge your neighbor with trespassing. 
MORE: How to clean outside windows you can’t reach

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You’ll have to put up some work and an obvious presence at your property to effectively deter a neighbor aimed at adverse possession. But if we’re talking
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A neighbor cannot claim your land by simply mowing it. They would need to be the obvious and sole caretaker of your land for at least 10 years straight without your consent before they can begin to claim adverse possession of your land.
You can stop your neighbor from mowing your lawn by asking them to stop, posting signs, or placing physical barriers along your property line. If all else fails, you may want to consider legal action.
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