External stairway encroachment on neighboring land by one foot is allowed to remain with damages only for the trespass victim

A Massachusetts court has found that a one foot encroachment on neighboring property by a new external stairway on a building is de minimus because the alley is hardly used, and the encroachment is both small and necessary to make the stairway consistent with the building code. Krieger v. Lanark LJS LLC, 2019 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 345, 2019 WL 1976015 (Mass. App. Ct. 2019). A claim for injunctive release to move the encroachment was denied for those reasons and also because the encroaching owner had acted innocently, relying on an incorrect survey, and did not know that the stairway would extend onto the neighbor's land. If the encroachment had been significant, an injunction would have been issued for it to be removed, even though it was built in a good faith belief that it was on the builder's land. Here the encroachment was not significant because "the unlawful encroachment [was] made innocently, and the cost of removal…would be greatly disproportionate to the injury…from its continuation." Note that injunctive relief may also be denied "where the substantial rights of the owner may be protected without recourse to an injunctin, or where an injunction would be oppressive and inequitable."

See also: Easements, Trespass