What to Know If You Share a Fence With Your Neighbor—Including Who, Exactly, Owns It

Updated April 27, 2022
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They say good fences make good neighbors… right?

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A good, sturdy fence doesn’t just increase the safety and security of your home. It can also enhance the aesthetic appeal and even increase the value of your property. But troubles can arise if you’re sharing a fence with your neighbor. 

From determining ownership to figuring out who is responsible for maintenance, here’s what to know about sharing a fence.

You Should Find the Property Line

When you’re sharing a fence with a neighbor and need to determine who is going to be responsible for repairs and maintenance, the first thing you need to do is figure out exactly where the property line lies relative to the fence.

In many cases, this will mean having your land surveyed. Even if you (or your neighbor) think you have a pretty good idea of the boundary lines, getting an updated and accurate survey is crucial if you want to avoid a potentially nasty surprise, such as unexpected repair costs or, even worse, a property dispute, down the road.

If the fence rests wholly on one side of the property line, then the question is settled—the fence belongs to the property owner, as does the responsibility for repairs and maintenance.

When Your Fence Falls Directly on the Property Line

In the majority of cases, fences rest, in whole or in part, on the property line. This means that ownership and responsibility will be shared by those whose properties abut this line.

And here’s where it can get tricky, because when you’re sharing a fence,  property owners are equally obligated for repairs and maintenance. To ensure that both sides of the fence remain in good condition, then you and your neighbor(s) may decide to hire a local fence repair and maintenance contractor and then split the costs equally.

In the case of storm damage or other accidents covered by homeowner’s insurance, most insurers will divide repair costs between the property owners.

How to Handle a Dispute When You Share a Fence

A fence line separating two houses
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Even when a land survey clearly lays out where the property line falls, property line disagreements can and do occur. And, unfortunately, sharing a fence can be one of the most common reasons why this might happen.

For this reason, if you’re involved in a dispute with a neighbor over a shared fence, your safest and easiest strategy will probably be to go ahead and hire an attorney. They can help clarify the legal ins and outs of sharing a structural asset, such as a fence. They can also help you determine the best course of action as defined by the laws in your state.

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