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Sharing a Privacy Fence
My family and I recently purchased a home that has a shared fence. We are planning to replace it with the same type of fencing because it is old and unattractive. My problem is that my neighbors on both sides use my fence for their own privacy and built onto each corner at the far end to close off their property. I feel that some of the cost should be shared to rebuild. I am not sure if they are even supposed to be able to build onto my fence, but I don't want to alienate my new neighbors. I was told that my neighbors should split the cost. Is this true? What should I say to them if they don't seem to feel that they have any responsibility, even though they get to share a new fence? What is the correct and polite way to handle this situation?
Ask, but Don't Press
Introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Invite them for a barbecue and get to know them! Talk with them and let them know that you are considering replacing the fence and are wondering if they would be interested in doing it as a joint venture. It might be a good idea to have an idea of what it will cost before you suggest it. If they are not interested, leave it at that! They are in no way obligated to pay for the fence you want to replace and you could end up making an enemy by pressing the issue! It is far better to have good neighbors than a beautiful fence!
Be sure to check with your city or township on fencing rules before you do anything. You don't want to go through a lot of time and expense and find out your new fence doesn't meet building codes! Better yet, consider growing beautiful flowering vines on it. We live in a beautiful new home now, but I still miss our rickety old fence and moss covered patio from our first home. It just had so much charm!
Sharing a Privacy Fence: Keep Good Relations
My husband and I decided to install a privacy fence last year. Several of our neighbors had existing fencing that would be affected. We decided to bear the complete cost. After all, we were the ones who wanted a fence. In addition, however, we asked each neighbor for their input regarding how our fence would affect theirs, so that all parties would be happy. We even put the good side of the fence facing each neighbors property in order to enhance their property. While I know this was not the most frugal way of doing things, sometimes keeping good relationships with your neighbors is worth a lot more than saving a couple of hundred dollars. After all, we plan on living here a long time!
State Fence Laws
In most states, if a neighbor uses an existing privacy fence to enclose part of their property, that neighbor becomes responsible for one half the cost of maintenance and repair of the common fence. You may want to make a trip to your county courthouse to use the law library. There will probably be a reference librarian to help you find information on this issue. Make photocopies of the relevant information and show your neighbors. If that doesn't work, you may have to contact a lawyer or sue in small claims court.
Sharing a Privacy Fence: Don't Assume the Worst
We recently bought a duplex as an investment rental property. The old fence between the neighbor's duplex and ours was falling down and deteriorating. We assumed that the owners next door would not want to share in the expense of a new fence, but we asked them anyway. To our surprise, they asked us to get an estimate and they said they would pay for half of it. We contracted the work and we each wrote a check for half the amount to the fencing contractor. Hopefully, your neighbors will do the same. It will improve their property value.
Be a Good Neighbor
Since you consider the fence to be yours, then assume that the total cost of the fence is yours. In these tough economic times, asking for money may not be the best way to be a good neighbor. I would give them warning that you are going to build a new fence so that they can take down anything that they have attached to it. I know it probably doesn't sound fair, but remember these are the same people who will be calling the police or fire department for you when you are not at home. Be a good neighbor and do the right thing.
Sharing a Privacy Fence: Assume the Cost is Yours
Depending on where you live, some cities will have by-laws regarding this topic (at least here in Canada). Usually, your safest bet is to assume that you will have to pick up the cost of replacing the fence if it is on your property. You can ask your neighbor and if they choose to pitch in financially, or with labor, consider it a bonus.
However, if the fence is solely on your property, you can do as you wish and they cannot attach without your permission. Usually, your city will have a stipulation as to how far into your property line that it needs to be (in my city, 6 inches).
If the current fence is on the property line, you have to get their permission to re-build it anyway.
When I built my fence last year, I had one neighbor pay, one didn't, and the other didn't even respond. The one who didn't pay has moved since and our newest neighbors offered to pay for half the fence so they could attach (and we didn't even ask!). I think most neighbors are willing to work with you but don't always expect it.
Dave of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Check Local Regulations
Check your state and local regulations. Some areas require that neighbors share the cost of any property line fence. Once you kindly explain this, it may help.
Sharing a Privacy Fence: Don't Cause Hard Feelings
Your neighbors are not responsible for a fence that is on your property. If they have attached other fences to this fence, it was with permission of the prior owner. I would suggest that you talk to your neighbors and find out if they are interested in helping you or splitting the costs, because they may feel that the old fence is an eyesore and would like a new one as well. Since these neighbors enjoy the benefit of having the fence, they may be willing to help. However, they may decide that it really doesn't matter to them and then you are going to have to pay for the whole thing. Usually you have to place the better-looking side of the fence toward the neighbors. Where I live, this is enforced by code. Just remember that the cost of doing this is not worth causing any hard feelings with people you will have to live next to for years.
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