DEAR ABBY: A year ago, my husband and I bought our first home together. We love it and are excited to improve the house and the property.
One of our neighbors is an elderly woman who had previously assumed that part of our property belonged to her. Without conducting a survey, she planted several trees on what is, in fact, our land, and they have grown to block our views. She also erected an unpermitted fence that crosses onto our property. We have since pruned and/or removed a few of the trees.
This neighbor constantly engages us in protracted "discussions" in which she admonishes us for not having consulted her before making changes to our landscape. We have shown her the property maps, and she is coming to understand the boundaries. Still, every time she sees one of us outdoors, she chastises us, offers endless unsolicited "advice" and insists we include her in all decision-making regarding our yard. We now actively avoid her.
We would love nothing more than to be left in peace and for our interactions to be friendly, infrequent and brief. How do we get her to back off? -- STRESSED IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR STRESSED: You seem to be a nice young couple, but it may not be possible to make nice with this neighbor who made a serious attempt to appropriate your property. When she sees you outside, be polite but "busy." Tell her you have a lot to do and don't have time to talk.
If she continues to inject herself into decisions regarding your yard, make clear that they are yours alone to make. After that, if she still doesn't get the message, discuss with your lawyer whether sending her a letter on his/her letterhead would be appropriate to discourage the harassment.
P.S. It is very important to get her fence removed from your property if it hasn't already been done. Your lawyer can explain why.