Property Lines and Fences
If you are a property owner or tenant, issues concerning property line infractions or fences are common place and can cause problems between neighbors. There are many rules and statutes that can be applied to adjoining property disputes and I will be talking only in general terms. Legal questions or liability concerns should be directed to an attorney.
As property managers, we are frequently involved in issues concerning a fence that needs repair or replacement. It can involve a pet or child that is no longer restrained by a broken fence. The issue can be to determine who owns the fence and is it their responsibility to make the repair? Often, owners don’t know who owns the fence or when it was installed. Fences are usually installed on the property line between properties and might have been put in by the builder or the cost split by neighbors. The assumption that the fence belongs to the property owner that has the fence facing out or on the outside of the fence posts is not always the case. The bottom line is usually who is willing to replace or repair the fence and if there is liability involved such as a dangerous dog or swimming pool.
Common sense should be applied to property line disputes however when there is a cost factor thrown in, that often goes out the window. A fence on the property line is usually beneficial to both sides and it would make sense to split the cost of replacement or repair. When one owner refuses to contribute and there are no liability issues, several solutions are available. Make the repair yourself on your side of the fence. Replace damaged fence boards, install inexpensive chicken wire by stapling it to the existing fence or if there are rotten fence posts a treated 2”x4” can be driven down next to a rotted post to make temporary repairs. If the fence needs replacement, you might consider installing the new fence inside the property line by 6 to 12 inches which will leave a void between the neighbor’s old fence and your new one.
Another issue that often arises between neighbors involves trees or bushes that have grown over the line or are rotten and need removal. Generally it is legal and the responsibility of the property owner to trim or cut trees or bushes that are encroaching on their property up to the property line. If there is a dead tree or branch on the property next door that is a danger to your property written notice should be given to your neighbor explaining your concern and it then becomes a liability to them. One misconception is when a healthy tree on your neighbor’s property is brought down by a storm and falls on your home or causes damage to your property they should pay for the damage. This damage is covered by the insurance of the damaged property owner and not usually the responsibility of the neighbor with the tree.
Property lines are normally platted and recorded in the county public records. When a property is surveyed there are pins (steel rods) driven into the ground to mark the corners of the lot. If the exact location of a property line needs to be located and these pins are not found it might save a costly mistake to hire a surveyor before installing a fence or building on you property.
J. Matthew Scheel | Broker-Owner | Sundance Rental Management, Inc.