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How Close Can a Fence Be To Your Property Line?

April 18, 2022

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How close can a fence be to a property line? This is an important question for homeowners, whether it’s you or a neighbor that’s planning a fence installation! You don’t want to encroach on a neighbor’s property or have them do the same. In turn, it’s vital that you understand certain legalities of fence installation.

Check out some standard information about fences and property lines. However, note that actual laws vary according to location. Consequently, you should consult with a property attorney or professional fence installer as needed. A fence installation company is typically familiar with laws regarding fence installations in your area.

How Close Can a Fence Be To Your Property Line?

In most cases, a fence can be anywhere from 2 to 8 inches away from a property line. However, some areas allow fences to sit right on a property line. For example, crowded urban areas and farmlands might allow fences on a property. In these areas, every inch of land counts!

Additionally, note that homeowner’s associations might have their own added regulations about fence installations. These regulations often include its placement as well as height, material, color, and so on. Consequently, you’ll want to check with your HOA, if you have one, even after considering local property codes.

Also, note that property lines and not fences determine who is responsible for property upkeep. In turn, you’re still responsible for any strip of land between the fence and property boundary. Keep this in mind when selecting a fence height and type, and it's installation point.

A new fence installation on property line

Can a Neighbor Put a Fence on the Property Line?

Your neighbor is bound by the same laws and HOA regulations as you! If the law allows you to put a fence on the property line, it allows your neighbor as well. While those laws vary according to location, note some added details about fence installation between neighbors:

  • If one neighbor decides on a fence installation, the adjoining neighbor is not typically obligated to share that cost.
  • Laws do not usually allow you to nail or otherwise attach things to a neighbor’s fence.
  • Additionally, you are liable for damage you’ve caused to a neighbor’s fence even if it sits on the property line.
  • Above all, you cannot make changes to a neighbor’s fence without their permission! This includes painting your side of that fence.
  • Also, you cannot simply tear down a neighbor’s fence even if it sits on a property boundary. If a neighbor’s fence is in disrepair or violates local codes, consult with an attorney before taking any action.

Remember, if a neighbor pays for a fence, it’s their property! Just like you cannot paint a side of a neighbor’s house, you cannot treat their fence as if it’s your own. Above all, check with local county or city agencies or an attorney if you have questions about a neighbor’s fence.

What Happens If a Fence Is Over the Property Line?

An encroachment is anything over or on your property line without rights or permission. If you notice an encroachment on your property, consider the following steps:

  • First, have a land survey done to ensure a fence is over your property line. Many homeowners assume where their property line sits, only to find that they’re mistaken!
  • Second, talk to your neighbor about what he or she might do before anything else. You may very well find out that your neighbor is willing to relocate the fence as needed.
  • Third, consider hiring a mediator or third-party to negotiate a deal between you two. This can save legal costs and bad feelings between neighbors.
  • Lastly, consult with a real estate attorney who can advise your rights. Remember that you might need to take your neighbor to court before you can remove their fence!

Above all, avoid doing anything illegal to address this issue. For instance, you don’t want to damage their fence or just dig it up! As said, you’re responsible for damage to a neighbor’s property even if you assume it encroaches yours. Also, never assume that the law will be on your side in this issue.

Additionally, remember that a land survey is vital for determining property lines. It might turn out that the fence isn’t encroaching your property after all. The few hundred dollars you pay for that survey can mean saving plenty of headache between neighbors. Also, it’s probably cheaper than hiring a property attorney, only to find that your neighbor’s fence doesn’t encroach!

One final consideration is if the fence is worth that time and hassle. Does it encroach more than a few inches? Does it block your driveway, view of the horizon, or anything else? If the answers are no, you might consider just letting it be!

wood fence on property line

Is a Fence an Encroachment?

An encroachment refers to anything over a property line illegally or without your permission, as said. With this in mind, note that a fence itself is not necessarily an encroachment! If a neighbor erects a fence clear of, or right on a property’s boundary, they have not encroached your property.

Also, note that neighbors have the right to erect fences that fall within legal limitations or restrictions. For example, your neighbor might have the legal right to erect a six-foot fence along your adjoining backyards. Just because you don’t like that fence doesn’t mean it’s an encroachment! Your local zoning board can advise you on local building codes for fences.

Above all, note that neighbors are not typically required to notify each other of plans to erect a fence. Your neighbor has the right to install a fence on their property within those legal limits, without needing your permission. If you’re unsure of your legal rights, contact a real estate attorney.

Does a Fence Determine Property Lines?

In some cases, a fence might sit on a property line; however, this is not a rule! A property owner might erect a fence away from that line, so that they don’t encroach on a neighboring property. In turn, that fence might not signal property boundaries.

Also, some property owners might put up fences for reasons other than to mark borders. For instance, a fence might keep in livestock or keep out trespassers. In these cases, a property owner might install a fence far away from their property’s borders.

With all this in mind, never assume that a fence indicates property boundaries. If you’re concerned about property lines, hire a land surveyor. He or she can measure a lot and mark its actual boundaries. They can also note if a fence encroaches your property.

Also, a surveyor can typically answer questions about features surrounding your property. As an example, you might wonder if a stream, boulder, or other natural feature sits on your property. A surveyor can point out your land’s boundaries, so you know exactly where your property ends.

How Tall Can You Make a Privacy Fence?

As said, fence regulations and restrictions vary by location and HOA rules. However, many areas allow for 6-foot to 8-foot backyard fences and two-foot front yard fences. Also, note that this height usually includes anything you might add to its crown. For example, don’t assume you can put a four-foot trellis on top of a six-foot fence!

If your area doesn’t allow fences this tall, consider some added tips for ensuring privacy between you and your neighbors:

  • Add walls or screens to your patio or porch, while minding HOA rules if any. Outdoor screens are especially helpful for blocking your neighbor’s view as well as bothersome sunlight!
  • Along with screens, you might add outdoor curtains that you can close or open as needed.
  • Hedges and bushes are an excellent choice for adding privacy around your yard. Box hedges provide a manicured look and can keep pets in your yard! Also, flowering bushes such as lilac and hydrangea offer lots of color and a lovely aroma around your property.
  • Thick vines planted around trellises, chain link fences, or pergola walls also add privacy. Consider ivy, grape, or wisteria for maximum privacy.
  • If noise is a problem, consider water features on your patio or backyard. Fountains and gurgling bird baths help drown out bothersome sound from neighbors, a nearby roadway, and the like.
  • On properties where fences or hedges are not allowed, consider potted plants! You can often plant various shrubs or thick plants in pots and then place these around your yard.
  • If you eat outdoors, consider adding an umbrella to your patio table. You can then tilt it as needed, to block a neighbor’s prying eyes!

Fence Company of Rhode Island is happy to help answer the question, how close can a fence be to a property line? Hopefully this information has been helpful! Also, remember to consult with an attorney if you have questions about legal issues regarding your property. Additionally, if you’re in the market for a stunning new fence, call our Rhode Island fence installation contractors. We offer FREE price quotes and guaranteed installations. To find out more, give us a call today.

 

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