Property line disputes among neighbors are one thing you can be sure will happen, especially where shared fences are involved. While some neighbors can easily negotiate their issues, some cases tend to be hostile and damage the relationships.

Whenever you don’t seem to agree with your neighbor, knowing the Alabama property line and fence laws could come in handy.

Can I replace an existing fence without a permit?

No! Most county authorities always demand a permit to replace your fence, even if it’s the same materials as the existing one. You might even need a permit to do the heavy repairs on your fence.

Everything boils down to the rules and regulations from your local authorities and Homeowner’s Association.

If you’re caught building without a permit, you’ll attract some hefty fines, and also a stop-work order until the permit is processed.

The non-permitted work may also affect your home’s appraisal when you wish to sell. Moreover, it may scare potential homebuyers who will be worried due to the integrity issues.

How tall can a privacy fence be in Alabama?

The zoning laws, which regulate the height, design, and size of fences in the area, limit the fence heights to a maximum of 7 feet. These restrictions may vary slightly, with some districts capping the height at 8 feet while others at 6 feet.

In residential districts, front yard fences facing the street usually have a limit of 4 feet. The rear and side yard fences, as well as corner lots, are limited to a maximum of 7 feet.

You can also apply for a variance if you think you need a taller fence than stipulated in the zoning laws.

Who owns the fence on property lines in AL?

Alabama is a joint-ownership state. This means that the authorities recognize adjoining neighbors as co-owners of the fence on the property line.
Each neighbor is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the fence, assuming that both neighbors are benefiting equally from it.

Under the Alabama Code Title 35. Property § 35-7-2, if one neighbor fails to repair their agreed portion of the fence, the adjoining neighbor has the right to repair it then seek compensation from the neighbor responsible.

If you can’t agree on the cost of the repairs, you can involve your local county district court. It will issue an order for three neutral freeholders to examine the fence and confirm the repair costs.

Their final price should be paid to the other neighbor within 10 days.

How do you know where the property boundary is?

The details of your property boundaries are usually on your title deed. However, you can’t always rely on this data as agreements of the previous owner could have altered it. The deed can also get lost or damaged at any time.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can use to identify where your property boundary lines are. The cheapest and easiest way to this is by visiting your local county assessor’s office.

They will give you access to public maps of your street and help you locate the boundaries.

Some counties have also uploaded this data online, which makes it easier for you. Just visit their website and look at the measurements of your property.

An alternative to this is hiring a surveyor to help you work out the boundary with your neighbor. The surveyor will clearly mark out the boundary lines. Ensure you document their findings to avoid future disputes.

Can my neighbor build a fence on the property line?

Yes! But they’ll first need your permission. Since the law recognizes both neighbors as owners of the boundary fence, the neighbor must first send you a notice informing you of their intent.

If you don’t think you’ll benefit from the fence, negotiate with the neighbor until you come to an agreement that he/she will be the sole owner of the fence. Ensure the contract is documented and possibly submitted to the local district office.

However, according to the Alabama Code Title 35. Property § 35-7-3, if you ever join or ‘use’ that fence (e.g., Keep livestock on your property) to make it a boundary fence, you’ll have to reimburse the neighbor according to the time used.

You should also ensure that your neighbor starts with a survey first. Doing this will determine the correct location for the property lines to ensure the neighbor doesn’t encroach on your property.

Can I put up a fence on my side of the property line?

Yes! Alabama fence laws don’t restrict any person from erecting a fence within their side of the property line. So, you have no obligation to ask your neighbor for permission to start construction.

You, however, have to adhere to the local zoning ordinances from the local council and HOA regarding the height, appearance, and style of the fence. You’ll also be fully responsible for the maintenance and repair costs of the fence.

What is a boundary fence?

A boundary fence refers to any fence or similar structure that separates two properties. It’s usually located on the legal property lines between adjoining properties, but that location may change depending on the agreement between owners.

While this is the general definition, different states in the country may have slight variations in their interpretations of a boundary fence.

Alabama, for instance, recognizes boundary fences as strictly fences built on the property line between lands belonging to different individuals.

How close to the property line can I build a fence?

The regulations vary depending on your local district ordinances and homeowner association rules. Nevertheless, most residential zoning districts enforce the standard 3 inches setback from the property line.

If your home is closer to a public improvement within a right of way, the zoning restrictions may recommend a setback of up to 10 feet from the boundary line.

To be sure, consult a local fencing expert in your area, or talk to your local district office.

Alabama Property encroachment laws

Property encroachment happens whenever one neighbor builds a structure, including a fence, inside your side of the property line.

Although some homeowners don’t mind small encroachments from the neighbor, it becomes a big issue when trying to sell the home.

You also risk losing that encroached portion of your land to your neighbor through adverse possession. Under the code of Alabama 6-5-200, the neighbor can contend for ownership of the encroached land if they’ve occupied it for at least 20 years.

The entire process is regulated by both state laws and the law courts.

What can you do?

Once you discover that your neighbor has encroached into your land the best way to deal with it is to talk to them. Ask them to move their fence before seeking legal action.

Another alternative is to sell that encroached portion to the neighbor if they’re not willing to remove the fence. If all attempts to resolve the encroachment fails, you can take the neighbor to court.

In this case, you’ll need to present proof that you own the land, and that the neighbor is using the land illegally.

Alabama boundary fence laws at a glance

This table provides an overview of some of the state laws governing Alabama’s fence laws and links to their original documents.

StatuesPartition Fences:
Definition
Partition Fences:
Joint Expenses and Failure to Repair
Partition Fences - Definition: Ala. Code Ann. 35-7-1

Partition Fences - Joint Expenses: Ala. Code Ann. 35-7-3

Partition Fences - Failure to Repair: Ala. Code Ann. 35-7-2
Partition fences are fences erected on the line between lands owned by different persons.Construction and repair of the fence are joint expenses of the adjoining occupants. When the joint occupants have agreed to maintain a specific part of the fence and one owner does not repair the assigned portion, then the other owner can make the repairs and obtain compensation from the owner who failed to make the repairs

Keep in mind; These laws are bound to change with time depending on the new legislation, federal court decisions, and other initiatives. Use the information provided above as a guide and research the latest regulations in your municipality.

FAQ’s

Both adjoining owners are considered owners of a fence on their property line in Alabama. This means that each neighbor has to contribute their equal share for the maintenance, and repair work of the fence.

Additionally, none of the neighbors is allowed to remove the fence without the consent of the other.

However, if the fence is completely inside the property line of one neighbor, then it becomes their responsibility.

Although Alabama’s property line and fence laws haven’t addressed spite fences, chances are your local district or township has laws against them. Some HOAs also have regulations against them.

Consult with your local authorities to find out what you can do about the fence. If the fence is taller than the local zoning regulations, getting a court order to take it down will be easy.

No! Unless you both share the fence, your neighbor doesn’t have a right to hang anything on your fence. If they do, you can consider this trespassing which is illegal by the Alabama property and real estate laws.

If the neighbor hangs and causes damage to your fence, the law may force him to pay up to three times the cost of the damages.

On the flip side, if you want to hang things on the neighbor’s fence, always ask for their permission.

It depends on the ownership of the fence. If you’re dealing with a shared fence, you’ll have to consult with the other adjoining neighbors. You’ll also have to ensure that the colors you want to paint are allowed in your local HOA regulations.

However, if the fence is on your side and you own 100% of it, you can do what you want – Just as long as it’s legal.

Keep in mind: Some district regulations may demand that the ‘good side’ of your fence should face the neighbor. So, ensure their side isn’t ugly before painting yours.

Yes. If the fence is on your side of the property line, there is no law stopping you from building that fence. For uniformity and aesthetics, the HOA may require that you maintain a uniform fence height as your neighbor.

However, you have to ensure that your fence doesn’t encroach on their property.

A cheaper alternative would be joining their fence instead. Although you’ll have to compensate them for building the fence, the repairs and maintenance costs will be cheaper since you’re cost-sharing.

According to the Alabama fence and property line laws, owners of the adjoining properties are liable for the boundary fence. They each have to contribute towards the repairs and maintenance costs of the fence unless they agree otherwise.

If one party refuses to cater for their share of the costs, the other neighbor can cover the repairs then seek reimbursement from the responsible neighbor.

Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.