Access to property between closely spaced homes...

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We live in a community of cluster homes. They are spaced closed together. On one side, there is only about 12 feet between our house and our neighbor's house. We only own about 3 feet of land on that side of the house. Our air conditioning compressors/fans are located there, and have been since the house was built (more than 25 years ago). The AC units are big and they span about a foot over the property line in the area between the houses. Our neighbor on that side is an elderly woman who constantly harasses us whenever we go to that side of the house to do work such as trimming shrubs. She likes to remind us of the property line and the fact that our AC units are going over the line about a foot. We really have no control over this because the houses were built so close together and that is where these units have always been. It was this way when we bought the house. Can the neighbor force us to move the AC units after they have been in that location for two decades? When we need to replace them, can she legally interfere at that point? She has interfered when we have had contractors working on our own property, so we would not be at all surprised if she tried to do so if we were having the AC units replaced but in their same location.
How do you know where the property line is? Have you ever had a survey done?
Fences are not always right on the line.
If a survey was done, how long ago? When 1st built? You can achieve better results with todays surveying tools as opposed to say 20 years ago due to advances in technology...
You might check your deed and the HOA CC&Rs to determine if the encroachment hasn't been formally addressed already.

If it has not been addressed, I have not checked the specifics for a prescriptive easement but in general terms, it requires 7 years for a claim to ripen. That would mean you would likely have a valid claim to demand the AC unit remain in place. If you replace the AC unit at some time, plan on moving it to a place within your property lines. She may have a claim at that point to demand it be removed so you might as well save yourself the hassle and just move it. In some cases, altering the use, even with a different sized unit, could invalidate your claim to a prescriptive easement. It could be a costly argument, even if you were to win so why not remedy the situation when you have that option?

as to workers trespassing onto her land: unless you want to argue there is a prescriptive easement in place that would allow it, once she notifies them of their intrusion, they would be trespassing. Same thing with you entering her land, even if you are only doing it to walk around the AC unit. If she wants to make a point, she could report your actions as trespassing. If you had to defend such a charge, you would have to prove your claim of a prescriptive easement. Unless you prove the prescriptive easement claim, entering her land directly against her demand to not enter would be trespassing.

I suggest sending the neighbor a gift basket and asking how this can be settled so both of you can live in peace. If either wishes to argue the issue in court, it can get real expensive and escalates the level of animosity between you. The gift basket and conversation is a lot cheaper and more likely to result in a situation more acceptable to both parties.
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