You've just moved into your first home. While it was built in the early 1900's and needs serious upgrades, you can't wait to begin home improvement projects. One the first things you want to do is get rid of that rotting fence that divides your property from your neighbor's. You think the fence is on your commonly-owned boundary line and want your neighbor to help pay for the cost. But your neighbor has other things in mind. What does the law say? Following are some things to keep in mind regarding fences and neighbor disputes.
Fences and Local Ordinances
Local fence ordinances usually regulate:
Residents of subdivisions are often subject to even stricter homeowners' association restrictions concerning fences. In residential areas, local rules typically restrict backyard fences to a height of six feet, and front yard fences to a height of four feet. Exceptions do exist, and a landowner can seek a variance if there is a need for a higher fence. While some jurisdictions have specific aesthetic zoning rules with respect to fences, as long as a fence complies with local laws it cannot be taken down simply because it is ugly.
Fences on Boundary Lines
Unless property owners agree otherwise, fences on a boundary line belong to both owners. Good neighbors should agree to split the cost of the repair of fences or common boundary walls. Both owners are responsible for keeping the fence in good repair, and neither may remove it without the other's permission. In the event that trees hang over the fence, most states agree that the property owner may cut tree limbs and remove roots where they cross over the property line, provided that such pruning will not damage the basic health and welfare of the tree.
Alterations, Replacements, and More
If you are thinking of building a new fence, or simply want to replace the old fence, there are some basic rules you will want to follow for the best results. The most important rule is to always consult with your neighbor before beginning work, repairs, or attaching anything to the fence. When we say "attach," we are talking lattice, signs, canvas, and more. You should also have an open conversation with your neighbor and, if they agree, get it in writing. If you are having trouble communicating with your neighbor, you may wish to seek legal advice before making your next move.
Neighbor Fence Disputes: Additional Resources
If you or someone you know is having a dispute with their neighbor regarding a fence or another land-related issue, you can continue your research by clicking on the links below.
Get a Legal Review of Your Neighbor Dispute at No Charge
Disputes with neighbors can be difficult to resolve, especially if you and your neighbor are unable to discuss the situation calmly and rationally. If you're unable to reach an agreement through discussion, though, you may need help from a legal professional. Get a head start by having a real estate attorney evaluate your dispute at no charge.