Fences are one of the most common sources of disputes between neighbours. If a fence sits on a property line, homeowners on both sides are generally responsible for sharing the cost and responsibility for maintenance and repairs. When a fence sits squarely within one homeowner’s property and is damaged, the person living on the other side may become frustrated if the owner is reluctant to do anything about it.
Your Neighbor’s Damaged Fence Can Endanger Your Family
A fence with sections that are broken or falling down is a safety hazard to children and animals. Your young kids or pets can squeeze through gaps and get out of your yard. If they wander through the neighbourhood, they can get lost, get hit by a car, be attacked by an animal or even get abducted.
Bring Your Concerns to Your Neighbor’s Attention
If you’re concerned about how the condition of your neighbour’s fence can affect your family, you have the right to ask your neighbour to have it repaired or replaced. Raise the issue directly with your neighbour, preferably face to face.
What to Do If Your Neighbor Can’t or Won’t Make Repairs
The neighbour may say that he or she can’t afford to have the fence fixed. If the damage was caused by a storm that knocked down a healthy tree or by another peril that homeowners insurance typically covers, the neighbour’s policy should pay for most of the repair costs. Bring that up in case your neighbour hadn’t considered filing a claim.
If your neighbour’s insurance won’t cover the cost of repairs and the neighbour refuses to address the matter, you may have to take legal action. Laws regarding fences vary from state to state and even from one community to another.
Educate yourself on the laws in your area. Your city or town probably has ordinances that address safety issues related to fences. The local government may require the neighbour to have the fence repaired or removed if it risks others. You may have to provide the neighbour with a written request for repairs. The law may give the neighbour a specific amount of time to respond.
If you and your neighbour belong to a homeowners association, it likely has strict rules regarding maintenance and repairs. If you file a complaint with the board, the neighbour may finally make repairs to avoid a steep fine.
Don’t Take Matters Into Your Own Hands.
If a fence sits on a boundary line and one neighbour refuses to cooperate for repairs, the other can have the fence repaired and then sue the other for half the bill. If the fence in question is located entirely within your neighbour’s property, you won’t be able to send workers into your neighbour’s yard to make repairs without permission. Seek advice from an attorney who is familiar with local laws regarding fences.