Which Side of the Fence Do I Own?

Which Side of the Fence Do I Own?

It is often difficult to determine what side of the fence, if any, is owned by a homeowner. This is especially true for people who purchase a home with the fence already installed close to the property line. 

It is important to know which side of the fence you own to determine what you need to maintenance and repair as the fence ages. Afterall, you do not want to leave one side to rot away if it is your responsibility to take care of it. So, which side of the fence do you own?

 What Side of the Fence Do I Own?

In the United States, it is all about the land the fence is on which determines the ownership. Simply because one side of the fence faces a neighbor’s yard does not necessarily mean that they are responsible for its upkeep. Let us explain:

  • If the fence is located completely on your property, you are responsible for its maintenance and repairs. You own it so the cost burden is on you. Please be a good neighbor and take care of both sides of the fence even if you rarely see the side facing the adjacent house.
  • In certain circumstances, the fence may have been built between property lines as a boundary fence. In other words, it was placed on the property line separating your yard and the neighbor’s property to create a division. Generally, you and your neighbor would both be responsible for the maintenance and repairs of this type of fence. Please reference findlaw.com for additional information regarding boundary fences.  
  • As you likely already guessed, a fence not located on your property is not your responsibility. 

Be aware that above may not be applicable if a written agreement is in place that outlines who is responsible for the fence. 

 How to Find Property Lines

In order to determine ownership of a fence, you need to determine your property lines to verify if it sits on or off your land. To do so, you have a few options: 

  • Find the Existing Survey – A property survey determines the boundaries of your land. You can use it as reference to determine where your fence is located in relation to your property lines. It can potentially be found in your mortgage documents, with the title company, or  at the tax assessor or local city zoning office. 
  • Obtain a Survey – If you are unable to find an existing  survey for your property, you can contact a local survey company to complete one for you. According to ImproveNet, the average national cost is approximately between $367 and $490. A survey is not cheap but it may be worth it if you are dealing with an uncooperative neighbor and a fence dispute. 
  • Locate Surveyor’s Pins – When your property was originally surveyed, the crew may have buried survey pins at the property line corners. These pins can be found by using a metal detector if you have one handy. Keep in mind that this is not always an accurate method to determine boundaries since the pins can be moved if they happen to get unearthed and relocated for various reasons. 
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) – Many local governments use GIS maps that can be accessed by the public online (sometimes for a fee).  These maps show the property dimensions around the yard perimeter that can be used to determine the property lines.