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Fence Etiquette: Tips to Avoid Neighbor Disputes

Article by Ann Cochran HouseLogic.com

If you practice fence etiquette and bone up on local zoning regs, you can avoid neighbor disputes. Even if you’ve found the most beautiful fence layout from somewhere like A&P Fencing, it is hard to know whether your neighbors will love it as much as you.

Must-dos

Observe boundaries: Don’t risk having to tear down that fence by going even one inch over your property line. Study your house line drawing or plat or order a new survey ($500 to $1,000) from a land surveyor to be sure of boundaries. Fence companies usually install a foot inside the line, to be on the safe side. You can find out more if you read this blog, as it can help give a professional perspective.

Respect limits: Fencing companies obtain permits and must know local zoning regulations for height, setbacks, and other restrictions. Height limits typically are 6 feet for side and back yards; 4 feet for front yards. More restrictive rules often apply to corner lots, where blind curves can limit driving visibility. To avoid disputes, review restrictions with your fence company before choosing a fence. If the fence is at the front or side of your property, you must also take into consideration any work that might need to be completed on your driveway or walkway. If you are looking for a custom driveway or walkway, you can check out the Custom Concrete website for some inspiration first: https://atlantacustomconcrete.com/driveways-walkways/.

Follow HOA rules: Fencing companies are not responsible for knowing home owners association dos and don’ts; that’s your job. Unless you want to suffer committee wrath, and engage in a dispute, follow HOA guidelines. HOAs can dictate style, height, and maintenance. If your HOA wants all structures to match, you won’t have much wiggle room.

Nice-to-dos

Share your plans: No one likes surprises. Before installing, save yourself a fence dispute and have a conversation with neighbors. If property line issues exist, resolve them before installation. No need to show neighbors the design–that’s just inviting trouble. They have to live with your choice unless it lowers property values or is dangerous.

Put the best face outward: It’s common practice to put the more finished side of your fence facing the street and your neighbor’s yard.

Maintain and improve: It’s your responsibility to clean and maintain both sides. So if you’ve got a fence stain make sure you clean it, or if an aging section starts to lean, shore it or replace it.

Good-to-knows

  1. The term “fence” includes trees or hedges that create barriers.

  2. If you have a valid reason for wanting an extra high structure, to block a nasty view or noisy street, apply to your zoning board for a variance. Neighbors can comment on your request during the variance hearing.

  3. If your neighbors are damaging your fence, take photos and try to work it out with them first. If they don’t agree to repair it, take your fence dispute to small claims court. Award limits vary by state: $1,500 in Kentucky to $15,000 in Tennessee.

Ann Cochran has written about home improvement and design trends for Washingtonian, Home Improvement and Bethesda Magazine.

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