Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Great information brought to you by McManamy, McLeod, & Heller Law Firm:

 1. A neighbor builds a fence and a portion of the fence is on the owner’s property.  What should the owner do?
  • Request that fence owner move the fence onto their property, or
  • Enter into an Easement Agreement allowing the fence to remain, but the owner retaining the right to request the fence be removed at any time the owner requests.
  • Nothing.  This may result in the loss of property over time.
2. An owner wants to build a privacy fence.  How high can the fence be?

  • Most all jurisdictions have limitations on the height of fences, usually six feet for back and side yards and four feet for front yards.
  • In order to build higher, a “variance” would have to be applied for and approved.
 3. A neighbor has built a fence higher than allowed by the local ordinance.  What can an owner do?
  • Inform the neighbor of the fence ordinance.  The neighbor may not otherwise know the law exists.
  • If the neighbor still does not conform the fence to the local ordinance, call the local zoning or planning office and they will take action to seek conformance.
 4. A neighbor’s fence is unsightly. What can an owner do?
  • Check the local ordinance to see if the fence is in conformity.  If not, see (3) above.
  • If in conformity, but ugly to you, there is nothing that can be done unless:
    • There are restrictive covenants in the subdivision restricting fence designs, or
    • The fence poses a danger because of its design or condition, or
    • The fence is dilapidated.
In these cases you may have the ability to have the fence removed or redesigned.
5. An old fence used by both owners sits directly on the Property line?  Who owns the fence?
  • The fence belongs to both parties, neither can remove it without the others permission and both are responsible for maintenance.
If a conflict arises over any fence issue, the first step is to try to understand the law and then to contact the neighbor to discuss remedying any situation.  In any of these cases, a lawsuit should be your last resort.  

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