New Renters Build Fence & Utilize Our Fence Without Permission

recala01April 14, 2010


I've read quite a bit about neighbor fence disputes on this site and would like an opinion on our current situation.

We bought our home 5 years ago and built a shadow box fence for our pets at that time. One neighbor was interested in building as well and we built the fence on the property line after he paid half materials and labor costs. The other neighbor was not interested and because he wasn't, we built our fence 6" inside our property line.

The owner of the "no fence" home has moved and rented his home. The new renters built a fence for their dogs on 3 sides. They failed to build the fourth side and when asked said they had no plans to finish it. Essentially they planned on using our fence on our property without permission. To get around having to ask or compensate us, they left a 6" gap at each end that sits away from our fence rather than attaching to it. Technically the fence they built is not on our property. They are still enjoying the use of our fence without having to shell out a dime for the fourth side of theirs. They piled up firewood at each gap to keep their dogs from escaping.

We had the unfortunate occasion to meet these renters before they moved in. They brag constantly about how they get around paying bills (cell phone, cable, etc) and it's obvious to us they will do anything they can to avoid paying for anything they don't have to. They are friends with the owner of the home and he was not sympathetic.

What if any recourse do we have? Had they offered to compensate us or even asked permission, we wouldn't have denied them use but the mere fact that they blatantly "scammed" us, for lack of a better word doesn't sit well at all. I have no doubt they are playing the odds that we won't do anything about it which makes me even more angry. We feel swindled and a little helpless.

We've considered removing a few boards for "maintenance" and leaving space open for their dogs to get out until they pay. This isn't at all about the money. The fence is 5 years old and we wouldn't have asked for much (if anything) at all, but this has become about the principle and a need to teach them a lesson.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. We bought the Neighbor Law book and read the section on fences. It appears to be in our favor.

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If they had enclosed their yard on your side then you'd have 6" of property you couldn't access to mow or maintain. That would be a real mess, I think.

I can't see where they're doing anything wrong. They are staying on their property and are containing their dogs within their yard.

For all you know, the property owner chose to build the fence for his renters and decided not to spend money on the side that had your fence already in place.

It's like saying you planted an oak tree on your property and the neighbors are enjoying the shade for free.

Honestly, these people are right next door. Wouldn't life be simpler if you just didn't sweat the small stuff? They could turn into real pains in the arse that could make your lives miserable. And for what?

Ignore the fact that they're making use of something you put up before they moved in. If you're going to be ticked off at somebody, I'd target the property owner.

Removing boards so their dogs can get out is mean and cruel and puts the animals in danger. Don't do that.

Something like this wouldn't bother us at all. I have a feeling you didn't like these people the first time you met them and now nothing they do is ever going to please you.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 9:37PM
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They didn't touch your fence on your property so how could "law" be on your side. I asked neighbors behind us if they wanted to go in 1/2, they didn't have the money at the time. We paid. It's been 40 years & they long ago moved away but we are still friends & email each other nearly daily. If you take out boards for a "repair" you better notify neighbors ahead of time as they can sue you if their animals get hurt or killed. Calm down or you are going to end up with high blood pressure & other problems.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 10:19PM
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Now that I think about it, why didn't you locate that part of the fence on the property line rather than 6" inside of it?

Was it a way "to get back" at that property owner because he didn't want to share the cost of the fence?

But back to this issue, I believe that if they had asked permission from you, and been allowed to place fencing boards that connected to your existing fence that technically that would give you part ownership of their fence. From a legal stand point, that would not have been in their best interest. So maybe that's why they did what they did.

It's not too late to approach them and ask if they'd like to add boards rather than have firewood stacked in the corners. Rather than stewing over bad neighbors, you might end up making some wonderful friends.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 11:12AM
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Good God, you are over-reacting. What did you want them to do, build a fence 6" away from yours? Now that would look odd. I'm sure the firewood is unsightly, & that would be the only thing worth complaining about. Monablair has the right idea.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 1:31PM
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The only thing I would do is move my fence to the property line. As it stands now, you have given him 6" of your property.. Who cares if they don't want to share the expense. The fence belongs to you. You wanted it and you got it. If your neighbor had decided to completely fence his yard, you would now have a 6" no mans land between the two fences. Gitagrip.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 2:37PM
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Twenty years ago or so I had an issue with my neighbour's behaviour during the warm months when my wife decided to catch a few rays in the backyard. Our house is located on a very small corner lot and my neighnour's kitchen window overlooks the very narrow , maybe 20 foot backyard. The distance between our houses is probably that of a double driveway, as I said avery small corner lot.
Anyway it seemed that every time my wife was in the backyard, he was washing dishes or whatever over the sink. It became such a problem that I got a permit to build a fence , 5 ' 11'' high so that his line of sight wouldn't allow him to see anything in the yard unless he stood in the sink , and low enough that the city didn't demand special installation procedures. This was a solid wood fence, 6x6 posts, 5/4 x6 boards, the works. Oh and at my lawyers advice it was built ONE FOOT back from the property line to allow my access for maintenance . At first he complained to everyone in the neighbourhood about the " berlin wall " I had built and how it limited the sun early in the morning - bull, not high enough , and all kinds of other stupid complaints. Anyway it turned out that the presence of the fence changed the way that the prevailing winds deposited the leaves in the fall and the snow in the winter, the end result being fewer leaves to bag and smaller snowdrifts to deal with. Now he's passed but the fence remains, I paint it , his widow cuts the grass he planted on my foot of land on his side of the fence, and although we don't do tea and cookies, we're good neighbours ! Good luck with your situation

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 9:04PM
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recala01, what makes you think a neighbor should pay for a fence on your side of the property line? Their new fence is on their side of the lot line and they didn't go into your six inches.

I don't have a fence. But the minute our HOA changed their mind and fences were allowed, my neighbors on both sides put them up to keep their dogs in and never asked me squat.

On both sides the fence is just inside their property line. Seven years later I want a fence and can only choose from two styles so my yard doesn't have three different fence styles.

I only have to fence across the front and the back and my neighbors cant say a thing because the side fences are on their side of the lot line.

If they don't like it, they can take down their fences so I can put up a fence I like and not have to match one or the other. LOL

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 4:46PM
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I sympathise but I'm not sure what to suggest, other than to say doing something to let their dogs out would be a bad idea. It's a shame you built the fence inside the boundary. Now as well as getting the benefit of your fence for free, the neighbours are getting the use of a strip of your land for free. I also have to point out that where you say "to get around having to ask or compensate us, they left a 6" gap at each end that sits away from our fence rather than attaching to it" I think surely the problem is they wouldn't be allowed to build anything in the gaps because they don't own the land? Although in the long term I wonder if where you live has any laws of "adverse possession"? I would check just to make sure you don't have further complications in the future.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 10:55AM
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Along the lines of Gammyt, when we bought our first house in 1970, the backyard was fully fenced. We assumed the fence belonged to the neighbors on each side and in back because the ugly side of the fence faced our yard. Shortly after moving in, Hurricane Celia hit and took out the back fence. When we saw the neighbor in his yard we went out and offered to help him when he got ready to repair it. That's when he told us it was our fence. lol. I still believe it was his but after our insurance paid for it and we had it fixed, it was definately ours and the "ugly" side faced his backyard.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 8:39PM
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If the "ugly" side was on your side, it was YOUR fence!
The finished side always faces "OUT"-Fence posts are always mounted on the "inside" of the fence!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 8:55PM
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Actually, it depends on the regulations where you are. Ours states that if it can be seen from the street, the smooth side is out. Our backyard could not be seen from the street and the sides were gated, therefore they were built with the smooth side facing in. The neighbor on one side chose to finish off the other side of the adjoining fence and build the other three sides like mine to match. Neighbor on the opposite side chose to leave it as is. Did it bother me that they used my fence to support their boards? No, they were neighbors and it didn't harm my fence in any way.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 11:52AM
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Here they face the same way all the way along the street, so everyone has one ugly side and one smooth side.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 11:40AM
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I googled this subject just to see what other areas in the US did. Seems this is a "hot topic" and one man even got irate about some govt agency telling him how to build HIS fence on HIS property. Who'da thunk?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 2:36PM
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They are minding their own damn business and not touching your property unless a dog occasionally steps on your six inches of grass. They are not "Using your fence without permission". The fence is doing the exact job that you built it for, and doing it well. What else do you want from them?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 9:58PM
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Why is it that people think they have a right to tell other people what to do on their own property and force them to abide by their personal whims? I not only was born into a democracy, I fought to preserve it. Why don't the socialists move somewhere else and let people enjoy their own property? These same issues are being brought up in another post"My neighbor stubbed my trees". I'll bet they are not complaining they have to cut your 6 inch grass strip because you don't do it.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 10:10PM
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Methinks recala01 was expecting support for his/her position, and didn't get it.

Interesting that there has been no reply from the OP.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 8:24PM
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Do you have dogs? If not -take the damn fence down. I like split rail for looks. I tore my chain link fence down. I hate fences. I do like split rails though.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 1:25AM
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Have always enjoyed the poem of Robert Frost, Mending Wall, in which he opines, "Good fences make good neighbors". Regardless, there are always people who think everyone around them is out to screw them.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:59AM
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If the firewood is piled in such a way as to close the gaps, it has to be on your six inches of property.

That could cause a termite or other wood destroying insect damage, as firewood is not to be stacked near a fence or your home for that very reason. For that purpose alone you should request that they move the firewood away from your fence.

In addition, if their dogs or your neighbors somehow are injured while on your half foot strip of land, they can sue you bear the liability for that land.

And, there is the possibility of an adverse possession issue...laws on that vary from state to state.

IMO, your best bet is to move your fence over to within an inch or so of the property line, and be done with it...and forget about your neighbors.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 5:09PM
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I don't quite get it either. You chose to put the fence up and now you feel the new neighbor is "using it"? You ought to move the fence on your property line, rather than 6 inches inside it, and forget about it.

If the new neighbor wants to pile firewood, and it is not on anyone else's land other than their own, there isn't much that can be said about it.

I'm not sure where you justify feeling swindled, when you built this fence 5 years ago, with you own free will. You didn't feel swindled back them, why on earth would you feel swindled now?!

I feel sorry for your new neighbor.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 11:14PM
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The way I read the Neighbor Law book, you might have had a case if you had built your fence on the property line.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 12:59PM
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I think the OP made it all up to see if anyone would fall for it!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:09PM
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Neighbor Law is a must read.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 4:28PM
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"You chose to put the fence up and now you feel the new neighbor is 'using it'? "

Guess they wanted the 'magic fence' that is only visible and useful on one side.

Was it to keep the outside out or something inside in?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 12:16PM
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I thinhk I have heard it all now. I like the shade example cited above. Most places have a setback requirement and its usuall more than 6". I'd check and see if thats the case where you live. If it is I'd pray the neighbors do not put up their own fence and then claim they can not manitain their property becuase your fence to too close to the property line and then force you to move yours!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:15AM
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you sure wouldn't like many communities here in se mi fences are rare...we do have a back one, but none on either side...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 2:54PM
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" Most places have a setback requirement and its usuall more than 6"."

Actually few [places seem to place restrictions on fence location.

A narrow strip does nothing except eat up space that the neighbor must now maintain.

Have an accurate survey done and marked.

The your fence does not become the adjacent property owners fence.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 3:05PM
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Had a similar issue with a neighbour. She has made it very clear that she dislikes me and that is fine. We have two Bostons and an eight year old with a kiddie pool. To comply with pool laws and to contain our dogs, we put up a chain link fence around our property 6 inches on our side of the property line. We told the neighbour in advance and indicated that we would have no problem if she wanted to grow vines on it or hedge or leave it or whatever. Two months later she installed a 6 foot high cedar fence on the property line (no consultation with us, one foot higher than our chain link. She only fenced our side (how obvious is that!), and the fence blocks virtually all the windows in her house. And of course we own the He** strip of grass and weeds between the fences. We are in the process of growing vines on our fence and putting in a garden there to hide the grass and weeds. If there is a future problem with her complaining that our vegetation is ruining her fence, we will approach the township to determine if she had a permit (we did) and we know that to build on the property line you are supposed to consult, which she did not.

For now, our neighbourhood is safe from our pool and our dogs, the neighbour is not seen, our yard is private and we like it that way.

What a ridiculous situation.....

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 8:53AM
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Suggest you use Roundup on all the vegatation between the two fences

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 5:12PM
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In our town in Ontario, Canada, the use of pesticides and herbicides for "cosmetic" purposes is banned. However, my DH tells me that our fence is 6" on our side and her fence is 6" on her side so the He** strip is half hers. So if there ever was a complaint, I guess we would have to say that the vegetation touching the fence belongs to her *LOL*

It is no big deal for me - 60' of daylilies will take care of it nicely....

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 7:49PM
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Life's too short to worry about stuff like this. Some people never have small problems....

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 5:34PM
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Adverse Possession and Boundary Line by Acquiescence laws may affect the outcome of your ever taking back that 6 inches you "gave" your fenceless neighbor when you decided to build the fence inside your property line. In some states the open use of the land by the neighbor for as little as two years would make it their land. In others the time period of use is much longer.

At any rate the renters are just that...renters. The issues have to be taken up with the property owner if you wish to proceed. I'm surprised that a renter would be the one putting up a fence. I would think he would have to get permission from the landlord. The decision of utilizing the existing fence is not something the renter would make on his own. Why would a renter even know or care where the original property line is? How would a renter be expected to know if the fence is half the landlord's or not. Something smells about this story.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 9:06AM
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Uh, *your* fence is keeping *their* dogs out of *your* yard for you. What exactly is the problem?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 6:20PM
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"Suggest you use Roundup on all the vegatation between the two fences"

Great way to create a mud wallow.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 11:45AM
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