Who Owns the Fence?

We sometimes get asked to help solve a fencing problem, and it’s not always a technical problem. Many homeowners aren’t happy with their neighbor’s fence, or want to install one for a new pet but aren’t sure how to address their neighbors concerns. That’s where we can discuss options, although we don’t have a lot of personal experience. My preference is to keep spaces open so we can all enjoy them. In one house, I did appreciate not having to walk our dog and we simply added a dog door for easy access to the fenced yard.

dog-special-fence-a4whoWhen I read Myrl Jeffcoat’s blog post, Staying Neighborly with “Good Neighbor” Fences, I was intrigued. Myrl’s story made me realize that putting up a fence on (or very near) a property line is a complicated decision although her story had a happy ending. Mryl’s neighbor created a special window into his yard, so Kodi Bear could see that his friend was the one making noise on the other side of the fence (so he wouldn’t bark).

Here’s my story and why I’m glad we didn’t put up a fence that would have created huge problems for myself, or an unsuspecting future owner. My neighbor built a fence (6 ft stockade) around their backyard, on 2 sides. We explained that we’d prefer no fence or one that was partially open. Our neighbors agreed to hold off on the fence that would separate our property. For several years we discussed different fence styles and never found one we both liked … so we never installed the fence. You’re probably wondering where’s the problem?

The potential problem would have involved where the fence went. There was a beautiful tree on the property line, so our neighbors before we moved there had built a short (maybe 1 ft tall) stone fence between our respective yards. The problem was the fence was really on our property. When looking at the contour of the property, in order to keep the stone fence in tact, the new fence would go on our property.

After reading Myrl’s article and another one she referenced, I now realize that if we had agreed to the fence being installed on our property:

  • We would become legally responsible for maintaining the fence.
  • We would run the risk of the property line moving to the fence line, and reduce the legal size of our property.
  • When both home owners agree, you can document the new “agreed to” boundary but that means time and money.
  • If you don’t document the changed boundary, future owners might be surprised if they don’t get a survey during the purchase process.

The lesson learned is where fences are concerned, a survey is a useful tool. Surveying the property line can insure the fence is installed where you want it to go, and that each home owner understands their responsibilities.

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About Dennis Turmel

Dennis Turmel has maintained buildings for many years, with 20+ years at the Eagle Tribune and of course, his own homes. He enjoys working with homeowners to solve problems, or even more fun, update their homes so they'll enjoy them more. Dennis pefers helping home owners with routine home maintenance, to minimize costly repairs and of course, there's less stress.

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