It is never fun to have to deal with neighbors who are uncooperative. Just imagine you wake up one morning and see that your stubborn next door neighbor has installed a massive, unattractive fence without so much as mentioning it to you.
What can you do in this situation? Do you just have to put up with it?
Usually no permission is needed for your neighbor to install a fence on his own property. As long as it’s no higher than 2 meters (6 feet) it is legally sound.
This does vary from place to place so check your city ordinance. Anything higher than that could cause an issue. If it’s lower in height you probably can’t do much about it.
The exception would be if the fence strayed on to your land. If so, you would have the right to refuse any part of the fence from touching your land.
This is why being aware of the exact property boundary is crucial, since it becomes the deciding factor in whether the fence can be put up or not.
A landowner has rights over his own land so if he wants to build a fence he can do so, without having to ask permission.
If the fence is going to be so huge or unusual as to violate some city ordinance, that would be another matter, even if it’s on their own land.
Of course, if you are in a rental property, it is up to the landlord what he wants to do with regard to any fence-building, but if you own the property yourself and are unhappy with the fence, there are some steps you can take. Read on for some more advice.
The answer to the question is largely about the boundaries between both houses or properties. You should locate the deeds of your property which include a land plan with the property boundaries clearly marked.
Check the Property Boundary Agreement
Perhaps a fence was agreed upon at one point but now you have a different idea. In this case, it depends on your location.
There might be a ‘boundary by agreement’ in effect where you live, which means if the fence construction costs were split between both neighbors, the fence itself is the boundary between the properties.
This means each neighbor can build whatever they like on their side of the fence.
Before a neighbor builds a fence on the property line, they should ask for a written agreement which is then recorded legally.
This means they can access your property should the fence need maintenance or repairs. Alternatively the neighbor could build the fence far enough from the property line so he can make repairs or mow without leaving his own yard.
How to Find the Deeds of Your Property
If you don’t have these to hand or have no idea where they are, don’t worry because there are other ways to get them.
The easiest method is to go online where you should be able to locate the information you need including whether you have any existing boundary agreements.
It is worth purchasing the documents for your neighbor’s land as well as your own, so if some information is omitted from your deeds you might be able to find it on your neighbor’s deeds.
What if There is No Boundary Agreement?
If you can’t find any boundary agreements online or otherwise, you can always make new ones. So long as your neighbor also signs them, they will be valid for any issues that crop up in the future.
Although it’s considered polite for a neighbor to give you a heads up before fence construction, as long as it’s on his property and not in violation of any building restrictions, he doesn’t have to get your permission first.
Your neighbor does not have to change a fence just because you want that, such as changing the color or making it higher for increased privacy.
You can’t paint it on your side either if it’s on their land. If you think it’s dangerous though, first tell your neighbor in case they didn’t know.
If they don’t repair the fence, you can report it to your local council or county.
Can I Build a Fence Next to the Neighbor’s Fence?
Since your neighbor can build a fence on his property, you can also build one on yours. If you want to go this route, build it a foot or two inside the property line.
If you are going to need to butt up to their fence post, this means it is technically encroaching on their property so you should ask permission.
Depending where you are located you might have to get permission from the city or council. It is possible your neighbors might have blocked you from fencing because of easement between the properties.
If you want to look at your choice of fence rather than see your neighbors’ and you keep the height the same as theirs, this might be a good compromise.
You can read more about it here.
A lot of issues with neighbors can be avoided with good communication. This is easier said than done though, of course.
It doesn’t matter how reasonable you are, you might still have a stubborn neighbor who decides to construct a huge fence without telling you about it first.
As described above, if you are unhappy with it, you should first check it is on their property and also no taller than 2 meters (6 feet).
If you want to know whether a neighbor can build a fence without asking you first, the answer is typically yes, but check with your property deed restrictions to double-check exactly where the boundaries are between the houses.
Hopefully you can come up with a satisfactory conclusion.