Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?
Nothing can be more contentious between neighbors than a property boundary dispute. Good or strong fences remove the possibility of that contention. Below you’ll find some common fencing issues, frequently asked questions (and answers):
FENCING ISSUE #1 :: Your neighbor builds a fence and a portion of the fence is on your property. What should the owner do?
- Request that fence owner move the fence onto their property, or
- Enter into an Easement Agreement allowing the fence to remain, but you retain the right to request the fence be removed at any time you requests.
- Nothing. This may result in the loss of your property over time.
** It also helps to get a property survey and have a licensed surveyor come out and mark the property line. That way, both you and your neighbor will have a clear understanding of were the fenced should be installed.
FENCING ISSUE #2 :: A neighbor has built a fence higher than allowed by the local ordinance. What can an owner do?
Inform the neighbor of the fence ordinance. The neighbor may not otherwise know the law exists.
If the neighbor still does not conform the fence to the local ordinance, call the local zoning or planning office and they will take action to seek conformance.
** If you are thinking of building your own privacy fence, it is important to note that most jurisdictions have limitations on the height of fences, usually 6 feet for the back and side yards and 4 feet for front yards. In order to build higher, a “variance” would have to be applied for and approved. It is also smart to notify your neighbor prior to installation to make sure they are in agreement with the property line and there are no issues down the road.
FENCING ISSUE #3 :: A neighbor’s fence is unsightly. What can an owner do?
Check the local ordinance to see if the fence is in conformity. If not, see #2 above.
If in conformity, but ugly to you, there is nothing that can be done unless:
- There are restrictive covenants in the subdivision restricting fence designs, or
- The fence poses a danger because of its design or condition, or
- The fence is dilapidated.
- In these cases you may have the ability to have the fence removed or redesigned.
FENCING ISSUE #4 :: An old fence used by both owners sits directly on the Property line? Who owns the fence?
The fence belongs to both parties, neither can remove it without the others permission and both are responsible for maintenance.
If a conflict arises over any fence issue, the first step is to try to understand the law and then to contact the neighbor to discuss remedying any situation. In any of these cases, a lawsuit should be your last resort.
Fencing tips above inspired by an article written by McManamy, McLeod & Heller, Real Estate Closing Attorneys located in Midtown Atlanta. Call MMH at 404-502-3334.