Neighborhood Tips for Home Owners in Silicon Valley
Duties, Rights and Etiquette for Repairs on a Shared Fence
One of the most common set of questions asked by potential home buyers, in particular first time home buyers, revolve around shared fences. Typical questions include: How should we go about changing the fences? Who pays for it? What if my neighbor refuses to change it or pay for the repairs?
The current legislation on this topic, updated in January 2014, provides many helpful answers that everyone should keep in mind.
The basic principle to remember is that "adjoining landowners with properties contiguous or in contact with each another are presumed to share an equal benefit from any fence dividing their properties, as well as equal costs for its construction or maintenance". The law states that homeowners must "share equally the responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence or boundaries unless otherwise agreed in writing".
If you are initiating a request for any type of repairs on a shared fence, here is what you should know:
You must give each affected "adjoining landowner" a 30-day prior written notice which should include:
- A reminder that "adjoining landowners are presumed to share an equal benefit as well as equal costs for its construction or maintenance […]" as stated above
- A proposal which should outline the solution to address the problem
- An estimate of the costs to be expected and how they will be split among all landowners
- A timeline with the expected completion date of all the repairs
If you are receiving a request from a neighbor for any type of repairs on a shared fence, here are your rights and duties:
You can overcome the presumption that you should pay a portion of the expenses by demonstrating that imposing equal responsibility would be "unjust", which is defined in particular by the Court as follows:
- the financial burden is substantially disproportionate to the benefit conferred by the repair of the fence
- the cost of the fence would exceed the difference in the value of the property before and after its installation
- the financial burden would impose an financial hardship which should be demonstrated by "reasonable proof"
In the end, the law merely states the obvious and provides a good template for an open and friendly discussion around a memorable backyard grilling party with your neighbors on any Summer day!