Your Guide To Sharing a Fence
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from homeowners who want to buy a new fence that borders their neighbor’s property is, “Which side of the fence do I own?”. Understandably, those who are about to invest in a new fence are concerned about how to get their fence fixed while honoring their relationships with their neighbors; no sense in putting in a single post before figuring that out.
The answer: Fence ownership is determined by where your fence lays on the property line. If your fence is right on the property line between your neighbor’s property and your property, neither you nor your neighbor owns a side; it’s a shared fence and a shared responsibility. If the fence falls to one side of the property line, it is wholly owned by the property owner whose side it’s on.
It’s important to know whether or not your fence is shared before you decide to purchase a fence. If you share a fence with your neighbor, be courteous and have a conversation with them about any changes you’d like to make; remember, it’s their fence too, and they may be willing to split the cost of the fence. If you’re part of a Homeowners Association, make sure the fence you want complies with any structural and design rules they have for new fences.
Follow Texas Fence’s Guide to Sharing a Fence to learn how to find your property line, start the “we should get a new fence” conversation with your neighbor, and comply with HOA guidelines.
Do You Own Or Share Your Fence?
The first step to determine whether you own or share your fence is having a clear, visual understanding of where your property lines are. There are two ways to find property boundaries:
Do it yourself
Hire a surveyor
Property lines are marked by ground pins, which are iron rods located 6 to 10 inches underground on the outer corners of your property. They were originally installed by a licensed surveyor when the property lines were drawn. If you want to find the property lines yourself, you can use a metal detector to locate the pins surrounding your property. You can place a flag where you find the pins and use string to mark your property line.
If you’re going the DIY route and decide to dig up the ground pins, you need to know where any electrical or utility lines are before you dig. To prevent any unnecessary damages, injuries, or power outages, call 811 a few days before you start the project.
In the event that you can’t find your ground pins or need more exact measurements, contact a surveyor. They will use GPS coordinates to determine exactly where your property lines are. Don’t forget to hold on to the survey report they give you afterward. Some neighborhoods in Bellaire and West University require a land survey before you can build any fence, shared or private.
Talk To Your Neighbor!
If you share a fence with your neighbor, you and your neighbor are both responsible for it. Don’t make assumptions on behalf of your neighbors. Chances are, your neighbor will be upset if a fence crew shows up- without any notice- to tear down and replace a fence that they partly own. Talk to your neighbors and see what financial and design agreements you can come to before you make any changes to your shared fence. They may be willing to split the costs with you, and negotiate which side of the fence faces your property and which side faces theirs.
There are two sides to every fence: the “ugly side” which has the rails, and the “pretty side” with just the pickets. If you have a pool on your side of the fence and your neighbor has a garage wall and a driveway on theirs, they may be willing to let you have the pretty side of the fence face your pool if they can have it facing their driveway. In some cases, your neighbor may want the ugly side of the fence facing their property. For instance, if you have small, adventurous children they may want the rails in their yard to prevent your children from climbing over and injuring themselves on their property. You never know what your neighbor is going to say, but if you share a fence the best thing you can do is have a conversation about it. So bake some cookies, knock on their door, and figure out a fence plan that works for both you and your neighbors.
What Does Your Neighborhood Have To Say About Your Fence?
After you’ve had a conversation with your neighbor, contact any HOAs or neighborhood authorities to make sure your fence plans fall within their guidelines. Some HOAs and neighborhoods implement fence regulations to keep fences uniform.
One trend we’ve noticed is the rise of the “good neighbor fence”. Good neighbor fences alternate the picket and rail side of the fence every 7 feet so that each neighbor gets an equal share of the pretty and ugly sides. In the Woodlands and many other neighborhoods in Houston, fences are required to have the picket side facing any public roads. These rules are in place not only to keep up appearances for passing drivers and pedestrians, but also to prevent trespassers from climbing over your fence using the rails.
Have other questions about maintaining a shared fence? We have over a decade of experience building fences on property lines. Contact us to build a fence you, your neighbor, and neighborhood can all agree on.