Texas Laws on Property Disputes Between Neighbors
A breakdown of Texas laws on neighbor disputes involving trees, fences, and the right to farm.
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Texas Tree Damage Laws
In Texas, if someone damages your tree, you can recover your actual damages (usually, what you paid for the tree or what it would cost to replace the tree). (To learn what you must prove in order to get actual damages, see Nolo’s article When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.) In some states (other than Texas), specific laws allow you to recover additional damages if someone deliberately damages your tree. In addition, intentionally damaging a tree is a crime in some states other than Texas and can result in arrest, jail, fines, and other penalties. But general Texas criminal statutes, such as those related to theft or property damage, may still apply. (To learn more about damages and criminal penalties in tree injury cases, see Nolo’s article When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.)
Texas Adverse Possession Laws
Under certain circumstances, a trespasser can come onto land, occupy it, and gain legal ownership of it. The legal term for this is “adverse possession.” To qualify as adverse possession (and to get ownership of the property), the trespasser’s occupation of the land must be:
- hostile (meaning without permission, though the definition can vary by state)
- actual (meaning physical occupation)
- open and notorious (meaning the possession is obvious to onlookers), and
- exclusive and continuous for a certain period of time.
The time period that the trespasser must have occupied the land varies by state. To find the time period in Texas, see the table below. Texas has three different time periods in which a trespasser can legally gain the land by occupying it. An alleged true owner of the land has ten years to try to recover his property from a trespasser. If the trespasser occupies the land for ten years and the true owner takes no action, the trespasser gains the right to the land. Texas applies a shorter time requirement for occupying the land (five years) if the trespasser has a duly registered deed (not a forged deed) to the property and has paid taxes on the property during this time period. In this case, the true owner has only five years to object to the trespasser’s occupation. For more information on the legal requirements for adverse possession, and how to prevent adverse possession if you are a landowner, see Nolo’s article Adverse Possession: When Trespassers Become Owners.
You can find Texas’s adverse possession law in the table below. Use the statute below as a starting point, and continue reading the related statutes that follow. (To learn more about legal research, see Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research section.)
Texas Adverse Possession Laws
Adverse Possession Statute in Texas
Time Required (in Years) for Continuous Possession in Texas
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.021 and following
10, 5 (deed, taxes)*
*If (deed) is listed, you must have a document or deed in order to make an adverse possession claim. If (taxes) is listed, you must have paid taxes on the property during this time period.
Texas Boundary Fence Laws
A boundary fence is a fence that is located on or near a property line, though the exact definition can vary by state. Sometimes even a hedge can act as a boundary. To learn more about boundary fences, including how they are defined, when a neighbor is allowed to build a boundary fence, and who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, see Nolo’s Fences and Neighbors FAQ.
The State of Texas does not have a specific law defining and regulating boundary fences, but there might be a local ordinance (in your city, county, or town) that has rules on boundary fences.
Texas Right to Farm Laws
All states have enacted laws that exempt farmers and other agricultural operators from complying with run-of-the-mill nuisance laws -- laws that restrict certain kinds of noisy activity like operation of heavy machinery, or prohibit the use of pesticides, for example. States vary as to how “farming” is defined and how long the agricultural operation must be in existence in order to get protection under right to farm statutes. Some states also list specific things (for example, odor, noise, or dust) that don’t constitute a legal nuisance when they’re a byproduct of farming or agricultural activity. You can find Texas’s right to farm statute in the table below. (To learn more about right to farm statutes, see Nolo’s article Rural Neighbors and the Right to Farm.)
Texas Right to Farm Statute
Tex. Agric. Code Ann. § 251.001
To learn more about these property issues and other disputes between landowners and neighbors, get Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, by Cora Jordan and Emily Doskow (Nolo).