My question involves real estate located in the State of: California (Southern California)
I've been living in my residence for about 2.5 years in North Hollywood, CA. I have a backyard and there's a wall there currently at the edge of the backyard to lean on and enjoy the view. Below that wall, there's an additonal 15 ft more that belongs to my property (as confirmed via a survey) which slopes downhill and blends into my neighbor's backyard (no physical barrier). The neighbor is below us, such that if you lean on the current wall to enjoy the view, you can look down entirely onto their yard. In this 15ft of space, there are tall trees and bushes that used to be shorter when we first bought the house, but now they have grown uncontrollably and are blocking our view. The first time our gardner tried to trim these bushes, the neighbor came out and started yelling and cursing at him, and threw a rock over the wall into my backyard to scare him. Another time, an object of ours flew over the wall into their yard (but still within that 15ft space, so technically it was still our land), and they destroyed it and tossed it back. Both instances I called the cops, but unfortunately since I had no actual evidence, they only filed one property damage report. So I had a surveyor come out and he put the markings, and then later I found out the neighbor removed one of them entirely and tried to damage the other! Therefore, I put up a whole surveillance system around my house to point down and record any other monkey business they attempt. Recently, being more confident where my land border lies, I brought some tree guys to cut a few of the big trees. They got through most of them, but were interrupted when the neighbor called cops and told them we are cutting "their" trees that they had planted for over 15 years and watered. I told the cop we knew it was our land and that we were in the right. I (and the cops) weren't sure how to react, so I took the cops' recommendation to stop cutting the trees until we figured this out. I spoke with a couple real estate attorneys and they both recommended I prop up a fence right away to keep my border defined, but then to play it by ear and see how they react. But it's kind of stressful acting in a way that is likely to get sued or in legal trouble, so I want to know how I could cover my bases.
1) How can I know if they already have a prescriptive easement? My title report only shows some public city easements, and I checked the court house and public records in Van Nuys and saw nothing (or perhaps I missed it)? Could somebody point me to a proper place I could check to know for sure?
2) Is it wise for me to put up one of those "Right to pass by permission, and subject to control, of owner: Section 1008, Civil Code." signs in that 15ft space to prevent a prescriptive easement from forming? Also, if I do start using the land now, is that also good grounds for me to prevent losing it? If so, what are some valid uses--maybe I could plant some stuff there?
3) They never even "use" or walk around or anything on this unusable, sloped 15ft, anyway, so if they just say they planted those trees for privacy and watered them, I could say I planted some and watered them from behind the wall, too. How can they prove they've been using it, and do they need a more valid use than simply having planted trees that they used for privacy?
4) How can I get a full history of my property taxes to make sure they can't claim adverse possession if they've ever contributed to it?
FYI we have CC&Rs in our area and there is one section that says neighbors all agree to maintain their trees in a way that nobody's view is obstructed, but I'd like to refer to that as a last resort as I'm more interested in cutting down the trees and putting up a fence to prevent them from walking up and posing a threat to my family via object throwing.
I've heard it's gotten tougher in CA to claim prescriptive easement? I hope that's true.
Any help or advice is infinitely appreciated. Thanks in advance!