Fence laws can be tricky depending on the state you live in and the dispute which may arise.
Who owns which side of the fence is a silly myth, if it is on the property line and paid for by both parties you both own it. Who gets the good side of the fence will need to be worked out between yourself and your neighbor. Normally it is rotated every time the fence is changed.
Forget the law about you owning the left side of the fence. It makes no sense in reality. You can do what you wish with your side of the fence from hanging ornaments to painting.
There are several documents that you can use to determine whether you own the left or the right side of your fence. These include:
- The property deed: Explicitly states which homeowner is responsible for the left or the right side of the fence.
- The land registry or title plan: It includes a T-mark that is placed inside one or both sides of a garden fence. If the T-mark is on your side, then you own the garden fence. If a T- mark is indicated on both sides of the property forming an H-mark, then the fence is jointly owned between two neighbors.
- Registry of deeds: In rare cases, you might find that the land registry does not contain the details of your property since it is unregistered. The registry of deeds will always come in as it contains the written details of all unregistered properties.
- The boundary agreement: It outlines who is mandated to maintain the boundary fence. The agreement will also indicate the general boundaries of the property such as the outline of where the property begins and where it ends.
If the land where the property lay is registered, there should be a plat indicating the dimensions of the property. The search for the property shall be through the land’s registration number. The land’s registrar holds a copy of the land details which include boundary issues.
Is the Good Side or Bad Side of the Garden Fence Mine?
Typically, the polished or smoother side of a fence is considered the good side, while the fence side with supporting beams, rails, and posts showing is considered as the bad side of the fence.
It’s standard practice and good etiquette to have the good side of the fence facing your neighbor or the outside world. Hence, the bad side of the fence is the side you own. This remains the case whether you pay alone or share the cost of installation and repairs with your neighbor.
It’s also good fence etiquette to change the fence board every 10-15 years so that each neighbor may experience the good and the bad side of the fence. You can add some pickets on the side of the fence with rails so that it may have a smooth finish.
Alternatively, you can also install “good neighbor fences,” which have two identical sides. Or a double-sided privacy fence, which features a sandwich construction and looks good on both sides.
Who Is Responsible for Maintaining a Garden Fence?
As you’d expect, the owner of a garden fence is responsible for maintenance and repairs of the fence. However, when a garden fence is jointly owned, installation and maintenance become a joint responsibility for both neighbors.
Post-installation fence maintenance for both sides of the fence involves cleaning, painting, and repairing both sides of the fence.
However, there are exceptions as to who takes care of the fence maintenance costs in certain instances, such as when:
- You want a more expensive fence than your neighbor in which case you must have to take on the additional costs.
- You intentionally damage the fence, you will need to foot the bills for repairing and restoring the fence.
While the above is mostly true, in some cases things can still be unclear. Such instances include:
- When deeds do not clearly indicate ownership or include unfair historic repair covenants
- When land registry documents are misleading
- When one neighbor has taken maintenance responsibility for so long that they become legally responsible for it
Ideally, you should maintain both sides of the fence to avoid conflicts and disputes with your neighbors. Ignoring your neighbor’s side of the fence reflects poorly on their property and as the kind of neighbor you are.
Can I Paint My Side of the Fence?
If your side of the fence falls on your property line, then you have every right to paint it. But, remember it’s good etiquette to inform your neighbor of your intentions before you go ahead and paint.
You can also paint your side of the fence without any worry if the garden fence is jointly owned by you and your neighbor.
On the flip side, if your side of the fence falls on your neighbor’s property line or they built the fence, you must seek your neighbor’s consent before you can paint it. You don’t have the right to paint it because it’s considered private property. Otherwise, when you do, you risk being sued for vandalism and sometimes trespassing.
Can I Clean My Side of the Fence?
Provided you own the fence you can definitely clean your side of the fence whenever you please.
However, if your neighbor owns the fence you can’t clean your side of their fence without seeking their permission first. As a matter of fact, your neighbor can sue you for vandalism if you clean the fence and interfere with its structure.
Such a conflict is solved at the small claims court, where when you are found guilty you may be forced to pay the repair costs for your neighbor’s fence. Additionally, you can be charged with trespassing, which attracts hefty fines.
How to Solve Disputes Arising From Who Owns Which Side of the Garden Fence
Talk to Your Neighbor
Negotiating with your neighbor should always be the first step towards solving fence disputes like this one and others. You can discuss with your neighbor more than just who owns the garden fence. The discussion can also cover who is responsible for maintenance, repair, and what steps you both should take when the time comes to replace the fence.
Furthermore, this is the opportune time to ask your neighbor whether they’re okay with your cleaning, painting, or repainting your side of the fence. Don’t forget to mention what colors they’re okay with to avoid future conflict.
Mediation is an effective dispute resolution method you can use when you can’t quite figure out who is the rightful owner of which side of the garden fence.
A mediator will listen to both sides of the story, take you through the documents that are meant to determine ownership, and help resolve the fence ownership dispute.
We highly recommend mediation because it is peaceful, affordable, and less likely to cause more dispute and misunderstanding between you and your neighbor.
Myth: All property owners on the same street own the left-side fences.
Truth: It depends on the existing development and land use plans.
Building a garden fence on your side of the property line gives you absolute control over the fence. You have the absolute right to build the type of structure you want, provided you abide by the local regulations. Additionally, you are fully liable for maintaining and repairing such a fence.
Not without permission or a prior agreement. If you do, you may be prosecuted for trespassing.
Yes, you can. The only condition is that you must adhere to the 4-inch rule, which dictates how far you can build the fence from the boundary line.
It’s also a good idea to confirm the fencing laws and restrictions set by your HOA, municipal, and city. Finally, it won’t cost you a dime to just inform your neighbor of your plans.
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