Many homeowners choose to enclose their properties with a fence. The structure can provide privacy, enhance the aesthetic appeal of the landscape, keep children and pets safe, create clear boundary lines, and much more. When a forthcoming fence separates the properties of neighbors, however, complications can arise. Who will pay for the fence? Who will choose the fence’s design? What if your neighbor’s selected fence is abhorrently ugly or violates your HOA regulations? Like any major project involving two parties, fences between neighbors can easily turn disastrous. To prevent a serious dispute, review the fencing etiquette, legal considerations, and product recommendations we’ve listed below.
Fences Between Neighbors
When you decide that you want to build a fence, notify any neighbors whose properties border your own. If the fence will alter their yard (aesthetically, with a barrier, etc.) in any way, they deserve to know before the fence’s installation.
To begin, share your plans with your neighbors. Tell them what sort of fence you would like to install, though you don’t need to go deep into design details (which could invite trouble). There is a chance your neighbor will express an interest in the fence and offer to chip in, perhaps for some say in the fence’s design. In a perfect world, you would harmoniously select a fencing system together and split the cost. However, these scenarios are unlikely. Typically, you will notify your neighbor, and they will respond with pleasant indifference or perhaps mild chagrin.
The main purpose of this conversation is simply (1) to share the news and (2) to review the property line separating your yards. Review the plats for your properties (if you have them) so that you can locate the official property line and prevent future legal disputes.
Although disclosure is the most important step when planning fences between neighbors, we also encourage you to follow these rules of fencing etiquette:
- Choose an attractive fence that complements the style of your home and neighborhood to avoid neighborly disputes. This will also ensure that you don’t rattle the area’s real estate market.
- When you install your fence, be sure that the most attractive side faces outward. Most of the time, this won’t be a problem because the two sides will be identical.
- Select a high-quality fence that is built to last, and as the years go by, take care of it. Clean it, treat it, and maintain it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ideally, it won’t require much (if any) maintenance on your part.
Some homeowners assume that if a new fence divides two properties, both property owners must pay for it. However, this simply isn’t the case. Whoever wants the fence pays for it, even if it benefits the other homeowner.
As we mentioned above, when two neighbors on good terms both want a fence, they may decide to split the cost. Additionally, sometimes one party will offer to chip in some money in order to have a say in the fence’s design. Typically, however, the homeowner who decides to install a new fence will be responsible for all of the costs involved, including the price of the product, installation, and maintenance.
We already mentioned the most important legal consideration of fence installation, but it bears repeating: be sure that your assumed property line matches the official property line. Find your plat (a representation of the property survey), which you should have received at settlement, to determine the exact boundary of your property. If you don’t have a plat, contact your county, lender, or title company to see if they have a record. Your local tax assessor, tax collector, property records department, or engineering department may also have a copy. Finally, if all else fails, you can hire a land surveyor to get a new plat.
Don’t ignore your plat or neglect to find it. You must be absolutely certain of your property lines before you install the fence. Once you find your plat, review it with your neighbor. In addition, consider installing the fence one to two feet inside the boundary line, just in case. If you go even a few inches over the official line, you could be forced to tear down your fence in the future.
Review your local zoning regulations as well, as they may have strict rules regarding fences’ height, material, location in relation to the road, etc. Some zoning ordinances even require fences on certain properties. For example, tennis courts, parking lots, and junkyards often require a fence.
Finally, if your neighborhood has a homeowner association (HOA), you will likely be required to run your fencing plan by the HOA. This is especially important if the organization regulates fencing types, heights, materials, designs, colors, etc.
What if I hate my neighbor’s fence? What if they hate my fence?
Unless it is dangerous, violates the law, violates HOA regulations, or impacts your property value significantly, the fence stands. Fences between neighbors don’t have to please both parties. Whoever pays for the fence gets to decide what it looks like and where it will be located.
What if my neighbor harms my fence?
After getting photographic evidence of the damage (just in case), calmly talk to your neighbor. If they refuse to stop harming your fence and/or refuse to repair the damage, you can sue them in a small claims court if the damages are at least $200. However, before you file a lawsuit (which is typically expensive and unnecessary), try mediation so that you can come to an agreement on your own. Finally, in any urgent situation in which your neighbor is harming your fence, call the police right away.
Purchasing the Fence
Fences between neighbors can spark debate and anger, but they can also create solid and beautiful barriers between two lovely yards. So if you’re looking for a new vinyl or aluminum fence to protect your property, be sure to check out MMC Fencing & Railing. You and your neighbors will adore our high-quality fences. To learn more about our vinyl and aluminum fencing systems, please check out the MMC Fencing & Railing online store or give us a call at 1-866-931-5002.