Property boundaries have a serious impact on the value of any property. In many urban and rural areas, losing just a foot of your land can cost you dearly during a development or resale process.
That’s why neighbors can get entangled in a legal row for years over the ownership or position of a boundary fence.
Yes. You’ll need a building permit to construct a fence in most residential and commercial areas. However, other towns such as Raymond don’t have any regulations regarding fencing. In this case, you won’t need a permit to build the fence.
In South Portland and Cumberland, you’ll require a permit for fences taller than 6 feet in height. For Scarborough and several other counties, permits are required for fences under 7 feet.
You will also need to obtain a flood permit if the property is in a 100-year floodplain or shoreland zone.
Can I replace an existing fence without a permit?
It depends on the regulations of your local town. In towns like Topsham, you can replace the fence without a permit as long as no structural additions are involved.
You should, however, check with your local township office to determine whether you’ll need a permit.
How tall can a privacy fence be in Maine?
For residential properties, the maximum fence height limit ranges between 6 – 7 feet, depending on your location. According to the general law, the front yard fence height is capped at 4 feet, while the backyard fence at 6 feet.
Nonetheless, property owners are allowed to seek a variance if they need a taller fence.
Some subdivisions may also have slightly different regulations for the fence heights. Consult a local fencing company to help you understand these rules.
Who owns the fence on property lines in ME?
According to the Maine Statutes Chapter 133 §2952, adjoining landowners whose lands are enclosed by the fence have to share responsibilities for the fence.
Both owners have to contribute towards the maintenance and repairs of the fence in equal shares. Even though this rule was mainly designed for agricultural landowners, it still applies to any residential property.
How do you know where the property boundary is?
Whether you’re preparing to sell your property or to make some renovations, a survey is the best way to locate your boundary lines. Hire a professional surveyor and they’ll identify where the property lines should be.
You can also opt to visit your local assessor’s county office to access the plat map of your street. Some offices have uploaded these maps online to their website.
Your deed may also contain the boundary details based on a previous survey report. Check to confirm that there are no covenant contracts added by the previous owner.
Can my neighbor build a fence on the property line?
Yes! The Maine laws allow one property owner to build fences on the property line in accordance with the local zoning ordinances.
But if the fence encloses your property in any way, the neighbor is legally allowed to compel you to build or contribute half of the fence’s value for maintenance and repairs.
If there’s a dispute regarding this fence, title 30-A §2953 of the Maine revised statutes allows the aggrieved party to complain to fence viewers.
The fence viewers will send a notice to the noncompliant owner, then survey the fence to determine if it’s insufficient.
They’ll then direct the delinquent owner to repair or build the fence within a period not exceeding one month.
Can I put up a fence on my side of the property line?
Yes. There are no restrictions regarding building fences inside your property. You won’t need to inform your neighbor, but you’ll have to conduct a survey to avoid encroaching into their land.
The fence will also have to meet the regulations of your
Homeowner’s Association and the township authorities.
To avoid any tension with your neighbor, the fence should be around 5 feet from the property line. This will give you room to maintain the fence without walking into their property.
What is a spite fence?
Spite fences are fences put up by a landowner that serve no legitimate purpose but to annoy or deprive the adjoining landowner from enjoying their property. This could be through blocking their views or access to a shared driveway.
Does Maine tolerate spite fences?
No! The fence statutes under Title 17, §2801 are clear that any fence that is unnecessarily over 6 feet tall built to annoy a neighbor will be considered a nuisance.
This law has been upheld by the Maine Supreme court as well. Based on past rulings, hedges, and trees planted along the property lines still count as fences.
The court makes its judgment based on the intentions for the fence. So, even fences that adhere to the local fencing regulations can still be regarded as spite fences.
Maine fence law basics
The Maine fence statutes in Title 30-A §2951 define a legal fence as; “All fences 4 feet high in good repair, consisting of rails, timber, stone walls, iron or wire, and brooks, rivers, ponds, creeks, ditches, and hedges, or other things which in the judgment of the fence viewers having jurisdiction thereof are equivalent thereto.”
Adjoining landowners are by law required to split the cost of a partition fence equally. If there’s any dispute regarding the fence obligations, either owner can call on a fence viewer to address the matter.
Using fence viewers to resolve disputes
Whenever a dispute arises between neighbors, the Maine laws provide fence viewers to help resolve the issue. The complaining neighbor can apply for two or more fence viewers in your town who will assess the fence.
They will determine if the fence is insufficient, then signify it in writing, and send it to the uncomplying neighbor to repair or replace the fence within 30 days.
If the neighbor disobeys the fence viewer’s ruling, the complainant can complete the fence then demand double compensation for the fence value. You can also receive compensation through a civil suit, with a 1% monthly interest rate.
Maine boundary fence laws at a glance
This table provides an overview of some of the state laws governing Maine’s fence laws and links to their original documents.
|Statues||Boundary disputes||Local Fence Regulations|
|Maine revised statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2952 (maintenance of division fences) |
Maine revised statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2951 (legal fence)
Maine revised statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2957 (contribution for the qualified fence)
Maine revised statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2801 (spite fence)
|In Maine, a boundary dispute can be resolved by:|
Enlisting a local fence viewer to examine the boundary;
Getting a survey;
Filing a quiet title action in court;
Entering into a written agreement with adjoining landowners;
Filing an adverse possession claim.
|City of Portland - FAQ’s
Town of Bar Harbor - Building permits
The city of Bangor - Fence regulations
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.
The Maine fence laws recognize joint ownership between neighbors for the partition fence. This means that each adjoining neighbor is liable for the installation and maintenance of the fence.
A fence blocking your view can be considered a spite fence. Under the Maine fence law, you can file a suit against that fence owner on grounds of private nuisance.
Not without your permission. Your neighbor needs to talk to you first. Otherwise, you can sue them for criminal damage or vandalism.
Yes, if you own the fence. If the fence belongs to your neighbor, painting without their permission may be grounds for a criminal charge. You’ll first have to ask for the neighbor’s permission. Even if the fence is shared, you’ll still need to consult with them.
Yes! A neighbor who doesn’t want to share a fence with their adjoining landowner is free to build one next to theirs. You’ll, however, need to conform to the fence regulations in your area.
Yes. Doing a survey before putting up a fence isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s always important to avoid encroaching into the neighbor’s land. Knowing your exact boundaries may also protect you from losing part of your land through adverse possession.
The setback and zoning regulations for your fence will differ depending on your township and Homeowner’s Association. Some neighborhoods allow you to build the fence a few inches from the property line, while others have set the regulation at 1-2 feet. Always confirm with your local code enforcer.