How to approach neighbors about building a fence?

annkathrynMarch 19, 2012

I'm closing escrow on a house this week and plan to remodel it. As part of the remodel I'll be taking down a small structure in the corner of the yard, at the property line. It's grandfathered in, but I can't keep it for a number of reasons. There's a fence on each side of the structure along the property line, but the fence stops right at each end of the structure. When I take the structure down, it will leave an opening to my 2 neighbors' yards. I'll need to replace both sides of the fence.

A picture might be worth a thousand words:

My question is this: how would you approach the 2 neighbors to ask if they'd be willing to contribute to the cost of the fence? Would you get estimates first? Or ask first in case either of them have a preferred fence repair company? The next door neighbor is renting, but I have the owner's email address. I don't have contact information for the neighbor behind; I can send a letter or just knock on their door.

Does anyone have any experience to share?

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jane__ny

We are going through fence issues in Florida. This is what I've learned. You can put in a fence without asking the neighbors but the good side of the fence must face the neighbors.

We have looked a many properties with fences and 90% of the individual homeowner replaced the fence without help from the neighbors. We have been told most neighbors don't care about the condition and do not want to contribute.

In our case, we asked our Realtor to contact the sellers regarding the fences and who owned them. The sellers said they replaced all the fencing at their cost as the neighbors were not interested.

One word of caution, make sure you get a survey to be sure of property lines. Also, check with the Homeowners Association for rules regarding fences.

Jane

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 7:39PM
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annkathryn

Thanks jane, that's helpful. I didn't realize there was a "good" side of the fence. Will check property lines. No HOA here.

I'm prepared to pay the entire cost myself, but wanted to give the neighbors an opportunity to chip in if they felt generous.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 8:03PM
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greg_2010

Personally, since you are the one taking down the structure that is acting as a fence, I'd see it as your responsibility to replace it with a fence. Ethically, at least. No idea what the legal standpoint is.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 8:54AM
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brickeyee

"You can put in a fence without asking the neighbors but the good side of the fence must face the neighbors. "

Check statutes, zoning, and HOA.

While this is often stated, it is rarely correct.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:13AM
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dreamgarden

Many cities and towns have regulations/restrictions about what type of fencing you can have and where/how it gets installed. Contact your building department and get a written copy of the fencing regulations. If a permit is required, see if there is one on file for the existing fence.

Remember to call the utility companies to mark for underground lines. Might not hurt to do this in advance (and take pics) before you have the fence put up so you have a better idea where to place the new one.

Will the fence have space underneath? Our yard has low/wet areas that would become bogs if we blocked them with a fence. We are considering putting drainage tiles (weeping drain?) here and would not want to have to dig under/around a fence to do this.

Here is a link from another fence thread that might be useful:

How do you tell who's fence it is?
ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/porch/msg111631005785.html?29

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 10:20AM
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brickeyee

"Many cities and towns have regulations/restrictions about what type of fencing you can have and where/how it gets installed."

Most in the Northeast.

The rest of us do not like to tell folks what to do on their own land that much.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 11:59AM
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chispa

I'm in CA now and believe me, my town has plenty of rules and permit requirements, more than my old town in the Northeast ... here it is all about money. Anything you do requires a permit and they have healthy fees associated with them.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 2:03PM
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terriks

I think that you should not expect your neighbors to help pay for the fence.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:04PM
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Billl

"My question is this: how would you approach the 2 neighbors to ask if they'd be willing to contribute to the cost of the fence? "

I wouldn't. It would be a horrible way to start off with the neighbors. "Hi, nice to meet you. So, how much do you want to chip in to help me repair the damage I'm about to do?"

If you want to remove a building on your property, you need to factor in all the costs. In this situation, that includes the cost of patching the whole in the fencing that you are going to create.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:30PM
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annkathryn

Thanks to all for your comments. Fences under 6' tall do not require a permit, but it looks like mine are taller than that. I'll measure the next time I'm at the house. Good points about doing a survey and locating underground utilities.

I think what I'll do is contact the neighbors as a courtesy to give them advance notice of our plans, since they (or their yards) will be affected. At that time I'll ask if they'd be willing to contribute to the cost. If they are, fine, if not, that's fine too. In the meantime I'm going to get 3 bids for the work.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:31PM
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DLM2000

Notifying them is the right thing to do whether you have to pull a permit or not, and sets the right tone for a new neighbor relation.

I would not ask them to contribute. If this situation came up in my life and I was asked if I'd like to contribute, it would pretty much undo the nice gesture of notification. It's in the asking and maybe it's just me but it would feel somehow intrusive and just, well, icky. However..... if the new neighbor notified me, and said they planned to do their best to replicate the look of existing fencing if it did not prove to be cost prohibitive, that would get me thinking that perhaps partnering with the new neighbor would ensure a nice transition from old fence to new. I'd ask questions at that point about what companies they'd contacted, offer my suggestions if I had any. Your gesture of notice and my interest in specifics is how that new neighbor relationship begins. Being asked for money BEFORE the beginnings of that relationship is what would feel icky to me. But maybe that's just me.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:52PM
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covingtoncat

100% agree with dlm. Well said.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:36PM
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annkathryn

Points well taken, I'll refrain from discussing costs as part of my first contact.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:53PM
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pinkpaula

Many good suggestions listed.

To avoid problems:
1. Get a professional survey and abide by all code requirements.
2. Notify the 2 affected neighbors regarding your plans and time frame. They might have dogs/children that could get loose without an enclosed yard ;-) Finish quickly.
3. Place your new fence INSIDE your property if you are paying for it. This will enable you to control the maintenance and style.
4. Be friendly but businesslike in your approach to this project.
5. The cost of the fence should be borne by you since it is your choice to take down the structure.

Unfortunately, our neighbors didn't follow #4 when they put up their fence. We are still not speaking.
Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 11:06PM
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