Sharing a Fence with Your Neighbor? Here’s What You Need to Know

There are many things to consider when sharing a fence with your neighbor, especially with mutual agreements, cost-sharing, and even dispute resolution. Shared fences constructed along property boundaries are typically co-owned assets by both neighbors. Since it’s a joint asset, both parties can agree on repairs and maintenance or decide to tear it down for upgrades.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss essential aspects you need to know when sharing a fence with your neighbor. Understanding crucial aspects like local regulations and property boundaries when sharing a fence is key to fostering a positive and cooperative relationship.

Can a Neighbor Tear Down a Shared Fence?

Assuming that the shared fence sits along the property boundary, no. Your neighbor can’t tear down a shared fence without your consent because it’s legally co-owned by both of you.

In California for example, the fence laws state that if you and your neighbor share a fence, you both are considered to benefit equally from it, thus responsible for keeping it in good condition. Unless there’s a written agreement saying otherwise, you’re both assumed to be equally responsible for the fair costs of building, maintaining, and replacing the fence.

Understanding Property Lines

When sharing a fence with a neighbor, everything begins with understanding the property lines. To figure out your property lines, you can reach out to the county or title company for the records. If that doesn’t work, check with the tax assessor’s office or property records department.

Alternatively, you might consider hiring a surveyor to create an official record of the property boundaries. If you’re unsure about determining your property boundary, it’s best to have your land area surveyed by a contractor. The average land survey costs around $200 to $1,200.

It is worth the time and money to know your property lines before any project that could have a chance of encroaching on your neighbors property. Knowing your property boundaries will help in the future and determines who is responsible for the upkeep of a shared fence.

It’s important to note that if you build your fence on your neighbor’s property, they have the right to tear it down. On the other hand, if the fence falls on the boundary line, then both owners are responsible for the fence. In either case, there’s a possibility of legal issues. We also have a great article regarding removing a neighbors fence on your property line.

Legal Regulations and Local Codes

Understanding local laws is crucial in determining responsibility for a boundary fence. Notably, local fence laws can differ depending on where you live. These regulations lay down rules such as fence placement, upkeep, and cost-sharing. Additionally, zoning regulations dictate how your fence should be built regarding height, setback requirements, and material standards.

To ensure compliance with local laws, we encourage you to check your local regulations if you have a shared fence or are planning to build a fence that borders your property line.

Understanding Fence Height Restrictions, Setback Requirements, and Material Guidelines

Zoning regulations, depending on where you live, dictate how your fence should be built in terms of height, setback requirements, and material standards. These regulations also significantly affect the property line placement because they determine how the land in a particular area can be used and developed.

Here’s how zoning regulations affect specifically the following:

  • Fence Height: When considering the height of a fence, zoning laws might have rules about how tall fences can be. Read more about fence height through our previous blog post.
  • Setback Requirements: Zoning rules usually have setback requirements, telling you how far things like fences must be from property lines. These rules are there to make sure all spaces are safe and accessible.
  • Material Guidelines: Zoning regulations typically specify the maximum height and setback requirements for shared fences. However, there is no strict rule governing the choice of fence material. Nevertheless, safety is a crucial consideration, as some municipal regulations prohibit certain materials in residential areas.

Compliance with HOA (Homeowners’ Association) Rules

If your neighborhood has a homeowners’ association (HOA), their rules may cover who owns and takes care of shared fences. HOA’s may also have fence design requirements for the neighborhood’s overall aesthetic. It is important to review the legal regulations, local codes, and HOA rules regarding shared fences on property lines, as they may vary in your area.

Mutual Agreement and Collaborative Cost Maintenance

Having an open discussion with your neighbor about your shared fence is always the best place to start to establish a mutual agreement. With a shared fence, it is important to discuss at length the type, style, and material choice of the fence. Agreeing upon financial agreements, discussing plans, and setting expectations for each other’s responsibilities will ensure both find common ground.

Legally, both neighbors are assumed to benefit equally from the shared fence, so they should equally share the responsibility for maintaining it. However, if a neighbor wants to upgrade the fence for aesthetics, this rule doesn’t apply. You’re also not obligated to pay for a replacement fence unless there was a structural issue with the old one.

Moreover, effective communication is crucial when discussing the shared fence plan with your neighbor to reach an agreement that satisfies your interests. It will also help avoid conflicts and make sharing a fence a pleasant and neighborly experience.

It’s always best to get any mutual agreements in writing when sharing a fence.

Resolving Disputes

When it comes to shared fences with a neighbor, disagreements can be inevitable. Here are the common disputes with a shared fence:

  • Fence ownership
  • Property encroachment
  • Unfair sharing of maintenance costs
  • Disagreement with fence design (e.g., material, height, and pattern)

It’s important to be prepared and open to these potential disagreements by paying attention to property boundaries first. Knowing your property lines determines who decides and who is responsible for the upkeep of a shared fence.

Complying with Shared Fence Etiquette

Early communication with neighbors is vital to prevent disputes about shared fences from arising. It also helps when you follow simple fence etiquette. Here are some of them below:

  • Have Open Communication – Clear communication with your neighbor is the first step to avoiding conflicts and misunderstandings.
  • Respect Property Boundaries – It is essential to review legal property documents (e.g., property deeds, property surveys, title insurance, and HOA documents) thoroughly to ensure that you are not encroaching on your neighbor’s property.
  • Place the “Good Side” on Your Neighbor’s Side – It’s standard etiquette to have the finished side facing your neighbors as a courtesy.
  • Share Your Plans with Your Neighbor – Discussing a plan and setting expectations with your neighbor, such as the fence design, maintenance schedule, repair cost-sharing, and other financial agreements, is key to fostering a cooperative and well-managed shared fence.

Exploring Mediation or Legal Options

Sorting out issues with neighbors can be tough, especially if you both don’t agree. Before you decide to take legal action against a neighbor over property lines, it’s a good idea to check the facts first and try negotiating with them.

In the worst-case scenario that neither of you can resolve the problems on your own, your safest strategy is to hire an attorney. Getting legal advice can clear up the legal details of a shared fence and it can guide you on what to do according to your state’s laws.

Shared Fence FAQs

Are fences shared property?

If a fence is on the property line, it’s usually considered shared property owned by both neighbors.

Can I attach things to a shared fence?

You should talk to your neighbor before attaching anything to a shared fence, as it’s owned by both of you and requires mutual consent.

Can I paint my side of a shared fence?

Yes, you can paint your side of a shared fence, but it’s good to discuss the color and plan with your neighbor to reach an agreement.

Can I put up a fence on a shared driveway?

Putting up a fence on a shared driveway might need careful consideration and discussion with your neighbor to avoid conflicts.

Do neighbors have to share the cost of a fence?

If neighbors share a fence, they usually both contribute to the cost, following the assumption that they equally benefit from it.


To sum up, effective communication with your neighbor is the crucial starting point in determining ownership. A careful review of legal property documents can offer valuable insights into ownership matters and guide the resolution process. Additionally, understanding the impact of zoning laws on fence ownership, responsibilities, and construction guidelines also plays a crucial role. In more challenging situations, seeking legal assistance may be the safest strategy to settle disputes and ensure a fair resolution.

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