How to Handle Issue with Neighbor's Fence

joflo723July 3, 2013

We bought our home a year ago. We have a neighbor behind us, and our properties are separated by a wooden privacy fence. Judging by the location of the posts, I'm assuming this is a fence that they (or someone who owned that house before them) put up...and judging by the condition, it was put up many years ago. The wood is starting to rot at the bottom and boards are starting to loosen and fall off.

To make matters worse, we have two dogs, and so do they. Neither our dogs or theirs are aggressive by nature, but when the four of them "meet" at the gate, the barking and snarling and growling is crazy.

So the big problem is that one of the panels of the fence are starting to be pushed away from the fence line because of a palm tree growing at the edge of their property. It has caused the boards to begin coming away from the fence and yesterday, what I had feared happened....their dogs came THROUGH the fence, right into our yard! Thank God our dogs were inside because there could have been a horrible dog fight. My husband ran them back to their side of the fence, and we have since patched up the gap as best we could with a big sheet of plywood (which looks absolutely dreadful).

I know we need to approach the neighbor about this situation (they probably don't even know their dogs came into our yard), but what would be a reasonable request, beyond fixing the gate? Should we offer to split the cost of the repair? I don't know how the gate can be fixed unless they remove the tree, and I hate asking someone to do that...not to mention, that's an even bigger expense that I would also offer to split with them if I had the money, but I don't...and I don't think they do either.

Any thoughts?


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Have you met these folks at all?

Here's what I would do. I would start out by saying you don't have a big problem but you just wanted to confirm where the ppty line is and who actually owns the fence. Just so they don't see you as someone with a big gripe. You do have a bit of a gripe, but it's very important at this stage that they don't see you as a griper. :-] Then say, we noticed you have dogs and of course we have dogs also, and they seem to bark at each other so we are glad the fence is there. But we're not sure who's responsibility it is to maintain it and some boards are coming off and we're concerned about the dogs.

It's not really your responsibility at all to maintain someone else's fence, but obviously you have a stake in it. I would not offer to pay for anything right away. See what they say first. If they get right on it, let them do it. If they seem hesitant, you can say, well, maybe it wouldn't be an issue if we weren't your new neighbors with new dogs, and we're benefitting from having the fence there too, so if we can help out with the cost, we're willing to do that. If we can talk ahead of time about the actual cost.

Cost will vary a lot depending on whether they fix it themselves and just buy lumber, or have a cheap or expensive contractor come in. So I wouldn't flat out offer to pay for half (or any specific amount) before you know what it's going to cost.

Whenever I'm talking to someone I just met, I always take things slow and try to make sure my attitude and intentions come across as positive.

Good luck and keep us posted.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 3:03PM
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Thanks for the advice! No, we have never met them...unlike our neighbors to the sides of us, our houses are backed up to each other, so there's really been no contact at fact, because of the fence, we've never even seen them!

Hubby and I are both very non-confrontational, so I'm sure our approach will come off positive...I just want to make sure that we understand our boundaries (both literally and figuratively) so that we approach them with reasonable requests. I think we can start off with "We noticed that the fence needs repairing, and since we are still fairly new to the neighborhood, we are trying to determine if it belongs to you or to us." I'm sure it's theirs though...and hopefully bringing it to their attention will be enough.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Did you have your property surveyed when you bought it? You might see if your neighbors have one.

Why not have a fence company come out and give you an estimate so you have an idea what its going to cost to replace it.

Talk to your neighbors, show them the quote and see if they are willing to pitch in on the cost or at least get a second opinion from a fence co. of their choice.

If the neighbors don't want to spend the money, then make the fence as high as the city code allows.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 8:03PM
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...or add your own fence the length of the property line and stay a foot or so inside the line. Then let them deal with their delapadated mess.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 11:54PM
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I would offer to split the cost of repair or a new run of fence since the fence serves two properties and, because of the dogs, you are benefitting from it. If they are reasonable people and want preserve neighborhood harmony, they will be grateful for your offer. If they're not, you can either live with the plywood, pay for the repair or new run yourself, or install a fence on your side as already suggested.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 9:07PM
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If you've checked your survey and the fence is on their property, I'd simply put up a sturdy fence on MY side of the line and let them deal with their decrepit one. You really have no say over their fence. Take the easy, direct alternative. If you don't, you will no doubt have problems for years to come--if you ask them to repair the fence, they may repair it inadequately, and in months or a year or two, you'll be back in the same place. OR you'll end up in a confrontation with them. OR, they may be the type who take exception to your request and start doing damage to your yard or pets. Be smart and find a solution that doesn't involve a confrontation with your neighbors.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 3:24PM
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