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Do I need my neighbor's permission to put up a fence?

Whether you need your neighbor's permission, or need to notify your neighbor at all, often depends on where you intend to build a fence.

Building a fence on your property

In most jurisdictions, you do not need your neighbor's permission to build a fence that is located entirely on your own property. This assumes, of course, that you definitely know what your property boundaries are. A new or recent boundary survey can help you determine those boundaries.

There are exceptions, however. For example, if your neighbor has been crossing part of your property to get to their own property for a long time, they might have a "prescriptive easement" on your land that prevents you from building a fence that blocks their usual route.

Building a fence on the property line

If you want to build a fence directly on the property line, you might need your neighbor's permission. Talking to your neighbor ahead of time is a good idea. Suppose, though, that you and your neighbor do not get along and they refuse to give you permission to build a fence on the property line. In this case, you could try building a fence just inside your property line, as a fence built on your property a few inches away from the boundary does not encroach on your neighbor's property.

Building a fence on your neighbor's property

You cannot build a fence on your neighbor's property without their permission.

Your neighbor can object to any part of your fence, even if it only encroaches onto a few inches of their property. What they can do about it may depend on local laws.

Generally, a property owner can do what they want with anything that crosses onto their property. If a tree on your property has branches that extend over your neighbor's property, your neighbor can usually trim the branches as far as the boundary. Your neighbor may be able to move a fence you placed on their property off of their property, and onto yours, and hold you responsible for the expense.

Can I charge my neighbor half the cost to repair or replace a fence?

Most laws do not require your neighbor to pay for half the cost of building, repairing, or replacing a fence. Your neighbor might be responsible for paying half the cost of maintenance if the fence is located on the property line, but few, if any, legal procedures exist that require them to pay for their share.

If you and your neighbor have agreed to share the repair costs, you may want to get that agreement in writing and signed. If you agree to hire contractors, a Construction Contract or Home Improvement Contract could include both of you as signers.

Who owns a fence built on the property line?

Local laws differ regarding who owns a fence built on the property line. In some areas, the fence remains the property of whomever paid to install and maintain it. That neighbor may have the right to modify the fence or remove it entirely.

Other places may view the fence as the joint property of both neighbors. In this situation, the neighbors could be jointly responsible for maintenance costs, and making significant changes to the fence may require permission.

Who pays for damages to a fence?

Your neighbor could be legally responsible for damage to the fence if you can show that your neighbor was at fault, or that the damage occurred because something happened on their property. Your neighbor can make the same claim against you, if something happens on your property that damages a shared fence.

This typically involves catastrophic damage caused by negligence, an intentional act, or a storm or other natural disaster that caused something on their property to damage the fence, like a tree falling. Your neighbor might be responsible for the cost of repairing a fence if you can show that something like the following occurred:

  • Your neighbor's dog chewed through the fence.
  • Your neighbor accidentally crashed their car into the fence.
  • Your neighbor intentionally damaged the fence.
  • A tree located on your neighbor's property fell on the fence.

If you cannot convince your neighbor to pay in these situations, you may be able to make a legal claim against them for the damages.

The responsibility for damage caused by regular wear-and-tear is less clear. Both neighbors could be responsible for a deteriorating fence, but few legal procedures are available that require a neighbor to contribute.

Do I need a permit to build a fence?

Some places require a building permit to build a fence. Others may only require a permit for certain kinds of fences. A local building code might require a permit for an unusually tall fence or a stone or concrete wall, for example, but not for a simple chain link fence. Some locations may not require a permit at all. Sometimes fences can be legally required and require a permit.

The process for obtaining a permit also varies depending on where you are located. In some towns, cities, or counties, getting a permit may just be a matter of filing an application. Other areas might publish pending permit applications and allow interested parties, such as your neighbor, to oppose the application. A neighbor could present their case against the permit in writing or at a hearing.

To learn more about your rights regarding fences and neighbors, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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