As the saying goes good fences make good neighbors. But what happens when one neighbor does not want to share in the cost of that new fence. As a certified fence builder we get asked all the time what to do with unruly neighbours. Well the answer is that depends.
The cost of a fence can range from 2 to 10 thousand dollars. Not everybody has that kind of money sitting around. So it makes sense that if the fence is going to be benefit both parties then those costs should be split 50 / 50.
What Does the Fencing Law Say?
The common law principle surrounds the concept of "use". So if the fence is constructed on a boundary or property line the both owners use the fence.
This is governed by your local municipal bylaws and is interpreted differently in each city, but the law places responsibility on both parties as both benefit from it.
If your neighbor refuses to pay for his share then you could do any of the following:
- Put it in writing - send him a well written letter describing the issue.
- Pay for the fence and then send a legal demand upon him to pay his share.
- Mediation - some cities have a third party that will adjudicate the situation to ensure equitable relief.
- Or sue him for reimbursement.
If the fence is on your property line and the neighbor does not "use" it then you would be responsible.
How High Can My Fence Be?
Check your local bylaw, but most laws limit the height of your fence to 6' on the side yard and 4 feet on the front. What is interesting is that natural fences made of fences and bushes may apply to the bylaw. It would need to specifically mention something like a naturally grown or contracted" in the definition of a fence. I have seen some of this language to say over 8 feet is fine.
The fence could remain if a person has built the fence prior to the law being put in place. Or the person has applied for a variance to the law. For example if the fence is shielding them from the highway, or other adverse condition.
What Can I Do IF The Fence Is Unsightly Or Built In Spite
We have seen plenty of situations where one person builds a fence without consideration for anyone else around him. It may just be that the person is not aware of local ordinances is bereft of common sense. Unfortunately there is nothing in the law about the design appearance, or style of a fence. However there is a blight ordinance which could apply to a fence that is unsightly or dangerous (poorly built).
In these cases a local violation could be issued for the neighbor to comply, or you may choose to sue him for the loss of enjoyment of your property.
In any situation the laws are there to protect common sense and the right to the use and enjoyment of one's property.
If you are having issues with a neighbor it is best to contact a local attorney to help with your situation. As a fence contractor in Nanaimo BC we see these issues all the time, and can sometimes talk to your neighbor to give them an independent advise.
Or feel free to contact us and we will help you in any that we can.
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