Profile picture for Blugrey

Can a neighbor demand half the cost for a new fence?

I am about a week away from closing on this REO home. A couple days ago while I was showing a tree I wished to have removed, the neighbor next door approached me and wished to know if I am the new owner, I said I hope to be in about a week, she then informed me that they had to put up a new fence (which is on the boundary) and believes I should go in on half the cost of the fence.  The new fence they put up is between my property and theirs. The cost is about $5000 for my share.

I don't have a problem going in on a fence with my neighbors, but I'm just so caught off guard at the moment I'm not sure what to do. I still need to fix up the house I'm buying!

How do I handle this?  I'm a first time home-buyer and a bit non-plussed.

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January 04 2012 - US
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Answers (39)

There are legal acts concerning to the [Promotional hotlink removed by Zillow moderator. Please see our Good Neighbor Policy.] sharing between the neighbor. The law is called as The Dividing Fences Act 1991. This law regulates neighbours' responsibilities towards dividing fences and is designed to settle the contentious aspects of sharing a fence. Contact your attorney and discuss the case with him.
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January 22
Profile picture for DebbieMcNair1

I am concerned that this could happen to me one day as I share a fence with neighbors on both sides of me. I have a low paying job and barely can handle owning my home, let alone having to pay for any home repairs. I most likely won't have the money to help pay for repairing the fence when that time comes so I'm working on staying on good terms with both of my neighbors now, build a neighbor relationship with them, so in the future we can work something out regarding the fence needing repaired. I realize you were just moving in at the time and didn't know your neighbors yet, but that seems like a lot of money for a fence. And that seemed a bit rude of your neighbor to "swoop down on you to inform you that you need to pay for half the fence." Some welcome wagon that was. She should have approached you by introducing herself, and once found out you would be the new owner ask if you could meet with her to discuss replacing the fence after you'd gotten settled into your new home. Unless the fence was about to fall down in the next few days, there was no need for her to hurry over and declare her plan for the fence being replaced. I hope this all worked out well for you and your neighbor.

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January 21
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October 07 2012
Profile picture for jreynol
$5000 for your share of this fence! what??
I fenced in 200ft of my yard for $850 wood nails and all today's prices 10-5-2012. I might have paid someone $1000 for all the labor but that sounds like a FISH STORY! LMAO!!! $5000 FOR HALF a fence i'd say their crazy!
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October 05 2012
Is a permit required for the fence and if so is the height correct and was it  installed according to code?

Do you have the nicer side of the fence that could possibly warrant you contributing toward it?
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January 05 2012

You need to get your attorney who is handling your closing to advise you. This should be addressed before you close. 

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January 05 2012
Your neighbor made a number of assumptions....... that a new buyer could afford the cost of a new fence, that a new buyer would want the same type of fence they had already installed, new buyer would be owner occupant and enjoy the fence everyday as they might, agree that $10K is fair price, that fence was installed properly and no enroachment issue for you on a future sale, etc, etc.
I have no knowledge of legal ramifications but would be surprised if a neighbor can obligate neighbor for a voluntary expediture. Scary if true....... with this neighbors attitude/approach it will probably not be the last issue you will deal with so keep that in mind as you go forward.  If you do go forward be sure to share some of the input you received, so your neighbor will know how lucky they are that Hamp did not move in next door!
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January 04 2012
It looks like you may not have to legally pay towards the fence but consult a real estate attorney so you have no surprises,
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January 04 2012
Didn't say you contributed to anyone being taken advantage of. I said you were in the minority opinion.

The OP didn't say she was planning to pay for the other neighbor's fence in a year, either, not quite.

Just leave me be koala bear. I like new college grads. Their zest for life impresses me. Their naivete entertains me.

PS I wouldn't help pay for the other neighbor with a pools fence later, either.
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January 04 2012
It would be difficult to imagine that you are responsible for half the fence when walking into a situation that you didn't agree to. If it isn't part of the contract, etc... I would suggest letting your neighbor know that from close of escrow forward, you will be happy to help with 1/2 the repair/maintenance on the fence as agreed to moving forward. Whatever you agree to, this IS your new neighbor, and nothing makes a better neighbor then a good fence. :)
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Caveat Emptor
caveat emptor.

 since the OP was advised by many that the legal obligation falls on the bank(though free advice on a public forum, you get what you pay for, right?), the decision of what to contribute, how much, and on what terms is his/hers. Because the OP has this information, the OP can't be taken advantage of. Further more I'm not facilitating his being "taken advantage of," as i'm not pushing him to pay any more than he's comfortable with. you however are pushing him to pay nothing and while its true that he legally owes nothing, you dont know if the OP would value the fence. he/she did say that she intended to repair/ replace the whole thing anyway, just not this year.

it is actually the OP's neighbor that has been taken advantage of(unless there is fraud and hes trying to get paid twice or something, in which case i agree) because he foot the bill for a fence that will benefit both parties(granted, not equally) and has recieved no consideration from anyone. A settlement is a legal term, but it is also a bargain struck between two parties to avoid hard feelings on EITHER side.

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January 04 2012
Profile picture for SoCal_Engr
Any "neighbor" whose "welcome wagon" comes with a $5,000 bill is not a neighbor you need to worry about.

If you had agreed to build the fence...and
If you had been able to provide input on the style...and
If you had been able to provide input on the cost...
Then it would be reasonable for the neighbor to expect you to contribute.

How do you handle this?

First shot...
"I'm sorry, no. This is not an expense that I budgeted for."

Second shot (assuming neighbor persists)...
"I don't mean to be rude, but I bought the house. I didn't buy the previous owner's bills/commitments."
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January 04 2012
I didn't insult anyone. I made an analysis of the OP's neighbor.

I like my life just fine. I liked it better when I was your age. I had it made then, and pretty much still do.

I dislike seeing people get taken advantage of. Even people I don't know.
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Caveat Emptor
sorry you hate your life, hemp. That's no reason to insult the OP, or myself. you'll recall that my step one said "offer to settle for a reasonable amount"
reasonable is subject to interpretation. obviously your "reasonable" and my "reasonable," which is both fine and expected.

There is nothing that says that you HAVE TO contribute to the ASPCA, American Cancer Society, Rotary International, Heifer international, waterproject.org, ISV<--i liked this one 0.o, NPR and others, but i do it and I encourage others to join me.

Some of us just choose to be bigger people.
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January 04 2012
Don't buy the house if you have to subsidize the dam neighborhood.

You have three long time REA's telling you this is BS, and one English rhetoric major saying "settle", and there's not even a legal proceeding.
The fact that the neighbor extortionist has a pool means they needed a fence. You don't. Do you have kids? That's why they need a fence.There fence covers their assets, and does nothing to enhance yours. It's a maintenance expense.

I wouldn't pay them a centavo.

Who puts a $10K fence in between two homes, one of which can be bought with a receptionist salary? An idiot, that's who. Make sure your title company knows the neighbwhore is trying to extort money from you.
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January 04 2012
I recommend verifying property lines and easements.  They may state that the fence is on a shared line however it could be strictly on their property.  Also, if you did not own the property when the fence was installed determine if the fence had previously been paid for by the previous owners. 

You may also want to consider making a "contribution" to the cost of the fence not knowing if someone else previously paid on the fence, not having had a say in the type of the fence or in the bids of the cost of installing fence and so forth.  By making a contribution to the fence you are making a favorable impression for future issues that may need to be addressed. 
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January 04 2012
If both neighbors have pools, there is most likely a city ordinance that requires them to have fences! I'm sure the ordinance just requires a fence around the pool, but it sounds like they have opted to fence the entire yard. Save your money for your house, not their fences. Check with the city and see what their requirements are for pools, you might be able to do that online.

If you pay one neighbor, the other neighbor might also expect payment.
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for P_Guthmiller
Here in Texas we'd tell her to tear down the fence and share the back yard together!  But seriously, I do think you should share it with her - you both get the benefit.
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Blugrey

Hamp is funny.  He puts into words how a part of me feels about this.

No, I have no Attorney, I have the Title Co. though. I think I would rather give the money to the neighbors than hire an attorney.

Yes, the fence was put in recently. I don't own the property yet...

As soon as I get off of work today, I will contact the Title Co. about getting a survey done.

This whole thing has made me cautious because I am quite aware that the neighbor on the other side has a fence that doesn't look like it'll make it through the winter!  Both of these neighbors have swimming pools, so I can see how time might be of the essence to them.

I suppose this has shook me up a bit.

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January 04 2012
Profile picture for the_country_hick
"she then informed me that they had to put up a new fence"

She lied. She WANTED to put up a new fence. A fence is not needed just because you have a property line at that spot. The fence could as easily be taken down and removed if any safety concerns were present from the old fences condition.

There are very few fences on boundary lines in my state. Those that do exist usually exist to keep the critters inside. Fences are not needed period unless you have critters to keep in. Then being your critters it is your fence.

I would simply say that I do not like fences at all. I think they are unattractive and are not needed especially that one and would not pay anything to have it there. All a boundary needs is some iron survey posts at the ends. Anything else is an extravagance.
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January 04 2012
Seriously? You werent the owner when this fence went up, however talk to your closing attorney, make sure this neighbor has not attached a lien to the property you are purchasing because of an agreement they had with the previous owners. Did you get a survey done of the property to make sure the fence is not on your property?
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Caveat Emptor
blugray, check back every now and again on the off chance that a miss Tiffany Bond happens to drop in, her advice is usually stellar. you might even try sending an email through her profile.
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January 04 2012
I have dealt with some of these fencing issues before and I have to say I agree with both sides of the issue. While I wouldn't want to get off on the wrong foot with my new neighbors there are a couple of things to consider here. First of all, you don't know if the fence is positioned correctly. Also, any neighbor that announces themselves that way, is likely to be an issue from day one anyway, even if you do try and assist with the cost, they may demand and sue for the full amount.  just saying.

I would consult with my attorney on the issue and then if you are not obligated to pay, you still may chose to "help" pay for the fence if you wish, but might want some kind of document signed saying you were not obligated but chose to do so anyway.

We dealt with this issue (only we were the ones asking if the neighbor wanted to contribute) and not only did she choose not to pay but started constant issues with us about the property line. We were right she was wrong, but we had to prove it...

I'm just saying these things can get ugly, because some people are just that way. And I would be suspicious that you might be dealing with that "type" of person.

I would seek legal advice, but smile and just say that you are trying to figure out the right thing to do in the mean time.
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January 04 2012
Is your new neighbor's name Guido? I wouldn't give then a cent. I would spend money for a restraining order before I gave them a cent. There is no way on Earth you owe them a cent. The REO seller may, but you don't.
I would graciously thank them for the fence I didn't really need and invite them to the first cookout I had. That's about all they'd get from me.

This is a title issue. If they have built improvements on the property you desire to own, and think they are owed compensation for the improvement, the title is clouded. Or, it's extortion.

Do you have an Attorney handling the closing?
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Blugrey

I Thank you all for your kind answers.  I will take the advise of several folks here and try to work out some type of payment plan with the neighbors.

I saved up for this house all by my-self on a freak'n receptionist salary! I don't want to get flustered now.

I wanna keep the peace with the neighbors, so I guess I knew the answer all along...

I got to do some venting though!

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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Caveat Emptor
okay hamp.
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January 04 2012
I don't believe this brand new $10K fence is a hazard. There was no mention that it replaced a hazardous fence. If it straddles the boundary, it is an encroachment on the property blugrey is buying, and becomes a title issue.

Blugrey, be sure the title company is aware of this "issue", and that you buy an Owner's Title Insurance policy.
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for Caveat Emptor

 i recommend settling if possible for 2 reasons. first, a settlement is binding. your neighbor takes you to court, the best defence ever concieved is "we already settled this out of court" and provide the canceled check. The amount, the structure, its all beyond the scope of the court. a settlement is almost always iron clad.

Second(and the real reason) is because you said you would be okay with it. Hemp may be Mr Scrooge incarnate, but hes not wrong. legally speaking, you probably can be afforded the benefits of this fence with none of the cost.

@ hamp, the reason that you CAN be compelled to pay for a fence is because some people are idiots who will let hazards like a broken down fence or a rotting dead tree or who knows what sit on their property being at best a nuisance and at worst a danger to me, my pets, my children, etc. Thus i can compel you in court to replace that fence or cut down that tree, especially if its on a property line making it "half my fence" or "half my tree" the case law is well established and thousands of cases a year involve just that.

sunnyview is smart ^_)^
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January 04 2012
Profile picture for sunnyview
"Since the fence is already erected, I don't really have a say on the type!"

I'm not sure that you have any obligation to pay a dime. You still want to try to get off on the right foot with your new neighbors if you can, but I would explain that you feel uncomfortable paying for a fence that you did not agree to. Explain that this is your first house. Tell them that you want to be a good neighbor, but you are prioritizing projects to one at a time and that the fence was not on the short list.

Be as neighborly as you can in saying no to the 5K. You might consider negotiating a smaller amount paid over time for part of the cost of the fence. Since you were unable to shop the bid or do it yourself, I would keep that offered amount to 50% of construction material cost only. As the new owner you could have done other types of fence cheaper like field fencing with shrubs/vines or doing the work yourself as you had planned.

Understand your neighbors position, but hold your ground and only offer a token of what they are demanding if anything. Make sure not to hand ANY money over to them without a piece of paper stating the total amount agreed to be paid, for what and when. If they won't sign, then tell them you are sorry, but that you have to say no to the whole thing.
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January 04 2012
As a realtor, I cannot give legal advise. You might want to consult an attorney.

My gut feeling is that you don't owe for a fence that was installed before you were the owner of the property. If the fence was installed 5 years ago would the neighbor still believe you owe for half of it. A day, a week or a year ... you were not the owner.

Check your survey and make sure the fence is on the lot line or your neighbors property. If any of it is on your property, you can have your neighbor move it, or be a "nice guy" and let them know it is on your property and you won't make them move it.
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January 04 2012
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