Since the dawn of time, neighbors have been having disputes over boundary fences and fence ownership. What happens when one of those neighbors decides they want to remove a boundary fence though? Can your neighbor legally do this?
Your neighbor is not legally allowed to remove your boundary fence. If the fence is directly on your property line and you have both been maintaining the fence and the area around it, then your neighbor cannot remove the boundary fence.
In this case, the boundary fence belongs to both of you. However, this matter can be tricky to navigate so we have unpacked all the factors that are part of boundary fences and how you can solve your issues with your neighbor the best way.
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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!
If your neighbor removed your boundary fence, involving the law may not be your best solution in this case since boundary disputes can drag on for years and affect the chance of selling your house in the future.
Instead, you should avoid the drama and put up a new fence yourself on your side of the property.
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Is Your Neighbor Allowed To Remove Your Boundary Fence
First and foremost, you need to know if your neighbor is allowed to remove your boundary fence. In some cases, yes, and in some cases, no. Let us explain.
What Is a Boundary Fence?
A boundary fence is a fence that lies directly on a property line, to provide privacy for two neighbors. The fence is used and maintained by both parties if it was built by the municipality or if there is a special agreement.
Boundary fences may be built by the municipality in some cases, especially in new developments. In this case, both neighbors have the right to the fence.
However, if one neighbor built the boundary fence, then they are responsible for it.
Can My Neighbor Remove My Boundary Fence?
If your neighbor initially built the fence, then they are legally allowed to remove the fence. However, if neither of you built the fence, then your neighbor is not allowed to just take it down.
In order for your neighbor to remove your boundary fence, they would have had to receive your permission first before they took down the fence, especially if you both signed a written agreement to share the responsibility of the fence.
Can a Neighbor Remove a Fence Between Our Properties?
Your neighbor is not legally allowed to remove a fence that is between your properties if they don’t own the fence. You can bring the matter up to your local municipality as fence laws are local ordinances.
Your neighbor is only allowed to remove a fence if they put up the fence themselves and obtained the proper permit for the fence installation.
However, if neither of you put up the fence, then both of you share responsibility and ownership of the fence and your neighbor should have asked your permission first.
You might also enjoy our post on How to Stop Your Neighbor’s Dog From Digging Under Your Fence
How to Know If You or Your Neighbor Owns The Boundary Fence
So now comes the tricky part of figuring out if the boundary fence is indeed a boundary fence or if it actually belongs to you or your neighbor.
This all comes down to property lines!
How Do You Tell if a Fence Is Yours or Neighbors?
The easiest way to tell if a fence is yours or your neighbor’s is to examine where it falls on the property line. If the fence is on your side of the property line, then the fence is yours.
However, knowing exactly where your property lines are can be difficult. To help you, you can call a land surveyor who will be able to properly survey the land and determine where the property lines lie.
Who Owns the Fence Between Houses?
Whoever built the fence between the houses and obtained the permit to build the fence, owns it. However, if neither homeowner built the fence and it lands directly on a property line, then both homeowners own it.
During co-ownership of a fence, both neighbors are responsible for maintaining their side of the fence and also have shared rights to the fence.
Therefore, if a neighbor wants to remove the fence, they will have to obtain written permission from the other neighbor.
Who Is Responsible for Boundary Fence?
Whichever neighbor owns the boundary fence is responsible for it. The neighbor who erected and obtained the permit for the fence owns it. If neither neighbor put up the fence, then the ownership is shared.
This is assuming the boundary fence lies directly on the property line. If the boundary fence is on someone’s side of the property line, then that neighbor owns it and is responsible for it.
They also have the right to remove the fence when they please.
Do Title Deeds Show Boundaries?
A title deed will show your property’s boundaries but they usually do not mention any structures that fall within the boundary or directly on the boundary, such as a boundary fence.
When you bought your house, you received the property deed that states exactly where your property boundaries lie- to show what you purchased. However, these deeds typically don’t mention any structures, such as fences.
You might also enjoy our post on Can Your Neighbor Paint Your Fence?
The Laws on Boundary Fences
When it comes to laws on boundary fences, they vary from city to city and each state has different views on the laws. But, some common themes typically arise.
What Is the Law on Boundary Fences?
The laws on boundary fences will vary between municipalities since they are enforced by local ordinances. But, a common theme is that if a fence is on your side of the property line, then you have ownership of the fence.
Essentially, if you put up the fence and obtained the proper permit to put up the fence then you own the fence.
However, if you put up the fence accidentally on your neighbor’s side of the property line then you are actually encroaching on your neighbor’s property.
If neither of you put up the fence and it is directly on the property line, then you have both have ownership of the fence and any decisions regarding the fence must have approval from both parties.
If you do not obtain approval, then you may open yourself up to legal issues.
Is Removing Your Neighbors Fence Illegal?
Removing your neighbor’s fence is illegal if you do not obtain their permission. You are physically removing something that you do not own, which is breaking the law in most areas.
However, if your neighbor put up a fence that is landing on your side of the property line, then you do have a small right to the fence. But, you shouldn’t go directly to just removing the fence.
You can talk to your neighbor first and let them know that their fence is actually encroaching on your property and you would like them to remove it.
What Is the Punishment for Removing Your Neighbor’s Fence?
The punishment for removing your neighbor’s fence will vary between municipalities but you will most likely get fined by local authorities. It is not likely that you will face any jail time.
Local authorities really are not too concerned about fencing issues. If you remove your neighbor’s fence, you may be fined if your neighbor pursues legal action, but, anything more than that, such as jail time, is highly unlikely.
You will only earn a small fine and a bad neighbor reputation.
What Is Fence Law?
The fence law is a local law instated by municipalities that states if a fence is on a property line, then both owners are responsible for the fence, including maintenance, unless otherwise stated in a written agreement.
For example, in California, the fence law states that if a neighbor wants to put up a fence, the fence must remain on their side of the property line.
If the fence is directly on the property line, then both neighbors earn ownership and responsibility for the fence.
Additionally, if you believe your neighbor has put up a fence to spite you, such as blocking a view, then you might be able to sue your neighbor for private nuisance.
You might also enjoy our post on Can My Neighbor Move My Fence?
What Are the Rules on Boundary Fence?
Rules on boundary fences vary from city to city but they all mostly follow common themes such as who has ownership and when and who has responsibility for the maintenance of the fence.
Common rules for boundary fences include:
- If the boundary fence lies directly on the property line, then both parties are responsible for the fence
- Responsibility can be assigned to only one party if there is a signed written agreement between both neighbors
- One party is not allowed to remove or change the look of the fence without the permission of the other party
What You Can Do If Your Neighbor Removes Your Fence
Now that we have the laws out of the way, let’s decide if you should involve the law in your dispute or try to keep the issue between you and your neighbor and what is the best way to go about this.
What to Do When Neighbor Has Removed Boundary Fence
The first thing you should do if your neighbor has removed your boundary fence is to speak to your neighbor directly. They may not be aware that the fence was actually a boundary fence meaning that you both have ownership of it.
It is possible that your neighbor thought the fence was theirs and therefore believed they had the right to remove it.
Before you get the police involved, you should be a good neighbor and approach them with an open mind and let them know your concerns.
Can I Call the Police if My Neighbor Removed Our Boundary Fence?
You have the right to call the police if your neighbor has removed your boundary fence but don’t expect them to be very helpful. Fence disputes are not high up on the police’s to-do list and they may suggest you handle the situation on your own.
Besides, you should speak to your neighbor directly before you go to the police. But, in some cases, your neighbor will not be so friendly.
In this case, you should think of putting up a fence on your side of the property line which you will have complete control over.
Can I Sue My Neighbor for Removing Our Boundary Fence?
You may be able to sue your neighbor for removing your boundary fence but after the legal costs and likely very long wait time to be seen in small courts, it may be more worth your time and money to just erect a new fence on your property line.
In this situation, you really need to choose your battles wisely. Creating more bad blood between you and your neighbor by suing them for removing a fence may not be worth the effort.
Instead, you can put up a fence of your liking on your side of the property line and avoid any unnecessary drama.
All About Boundary Disputes
Sometimes, talking to your neighbor isn’t enough and you may find yourself in the middle of a boundary dispute. Let’s examine what a boundary dispute is and how it can impact your life.
What Is a Boundary Dispute?
A boundary dispute arises when a neighbor believes their neighbor is infringing on their property by having an item or items placed on their property without their permission.
Boundary disputes involve your neighbor using your property without your consent.
The situation typically evolves into a dispute when the neighbor has been approached about the situation and either denies what they are doing or refuses to do anything about it.
Is a Fence Considered a Boundary Dispute?
Fences are commonly involved in boundary disputes. A fence in a boundary dispute will arise when one neighbor claims that the fence is on their property without their consent and the at-fault neighbor refuses the claim.
The fence can either be fully or partially on the wrong side of the property to be considered for a boundary dispute.
If you are dealing with a boundary dispute, you should contact a real estate lawyer to decide on the best option going forward.
Can You Sell a Property With a Boundary Dispute?
You are allowed to sell a property engaged in an ongoing boundary dispute but you should be aware that it may affect your property value and you may have to disclose the dispute to potential buyers.
You are obliged to disclose all information about your property before you sell it and having a boundary dispute can give the upper hand to the purchaser when it comes to negotiations.
For example, this seller received $145,000 less than his asking price because there was an ongoing boundary dispute over a two-foot-wide strip of his driveway that actually belonged to his neighbors.
How Do You Settle a Boundary Dispute?
The best way to settle a boundary dispute is to talk to your neighbor first. Creating open communication with your neighbor is the best way to reach an individual agreement without involving the law.
You can suggest to your neighbor that they sell the piece of land in question to you. So, if you happen to be encroaching on their land, you could ask them if they are willing to sell that piece of land so it then becomes your own.
Or, you could do a land swap. If you are encroaching on your neighbor’s property in a certain area, you can suggest that they can have a piece of your land in another area.
Either way, you want to avoid the law as much as possible as boundary disputes can be very drawn out and may affect your chances of selling your house in the future if the boundary dispute is still unsettled.
How Do You Win a Boundary Dispute?
The best way to win a boundary dispute is to hire a decent land surveyor to prove that the property in question is indeed yours. This evidence should hold up in court above everything else.
Be prepared to hand over your title deeds to the land surveyor including the original transfer, lease of the land, along with its original plan.
This will help the land surveyor determine exactly what part of the property belongs to you and not your neighbor.
You might also enjoy our post on How to Shut Down Your Neighbor’s Vrbo
Can I Force My Neighbor to Put Up a Fence?
You cannot force your neighbor to put up a fence. If you want to create a boundary between you and your neighbor, then you will have to erect the fence yourself.
If you are looking to put up a boundary fence, then you will have to obtain your neighbor’s permission first. But, you would still have to put up the fence yourself.
You really don’t have any power when it comes to demanding your neighbor to put up a fence since they own their property and have the right to do what they want with it and what they don’t want to do with it.
Can I Remove an Encroaching Fence?
You have the legal right to remove the fence that is encroaching on your property but it is not necessarily recommended since it may result in some negative consequences.
Consequences that may arise if you tear down your neighbor’s fence include:
- Causing permanent damage to your property and possibly your neighbor’s
- Risking potential violent behavior from your neighbor
- Not getting compensation for the removal
Is It a Legal Requirement to Have a Boundary Fence?
Boundary fences are not legally required. Neighbors can make the choice to put up a boundary fence if they both want to provide privacy to each other but there is no law that states you have to have a boundary fence.
Additionally, you cannot force your neighbor to put up a boundary fence or agree to you putting up a boundary fence. If you want to have privacy, you will have to put up a fence on your side of the property.
If your neighbor has removed your boundary fence, by now you should understand how you can go about resolving this dispute.
Although it was illegal for your neighbor to remove the fence, you should try to avoid the law as much as you can since boundary disputes can be lengthy and may impact the possibility of selling your house in the future.
When in doubt, do good to thy neighbor even if they do not do good to you.