How Close Can I Put A Fence to My Property Line?

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Building your fence directly on top of your property line has the obvious benefit of enclosing your entire yard, giving you the maximum area in which to play, plant, and relax. Whether or not it’s a good idea  to do that, though, depends on a few factors, including where you live and your neighbor’s feelings on the new fence. We’ll help you figure out how close you can build your fence to your property line.


Is that the neighbor's property or your property on the other side of that fence?

Before you install:


Get a survey.


In order to know if your fence is on your property line, inside your property line or even on your neighbor’s property (yikes!), you’ll need a survey. Your county deed and assessor’s office may already have a copy, or you may have paid for one when you purchased your house. If not, these usually cost $500 to $1000 from a qualified surveyor. While this may seem expensive, it will save numerous headaches in the long run if you accidentally put the fence where it doesn’t belong and either have to rebuild the fence or address the issue in court with your neighbors!


Check rules and regulations.


Your jurisdiction may have laws about how far back a fence needs to be set on your property. It may be 2, 4, 6 or 8 inches from the property line. Other areas will allow you to go right up to the property line. These laws may depend on where you live: a subdivision with large yards where the setback won’t matter, versus an urban ro Get the DIY Fencing Guide! w home where those few inches really make a difference!


If you live in an area with a homeowner’s association, they may also have rules about fence placement, as well as the types of fence you can have in your front and back yards. Check your HOA covenants to make sure you are following the regulations.

After you install:

If you install your fence inside the property line, there are a few things you should be aware of when it comes to property maintenance, ownership and your neighbors.


Maintenance.

If you install a fence inside your property line, you can’t forget about the part of your property outside the fence! While your neighbors might mow the additional strip of yard on their side to be nice, it’s technically your job to make sure the grass is cut, the weeds are pulled, and that it’s in good repair in general. You will need to plan access to that part of your property. If your neighbors install a fence inside their property line as well, leaving a narrow strip of grass between the two fences, you will need to decide who will maintain it and make sure there is a way to access the area. On the other hand, if your fence is right on the property line, you will have to determine if you neighbors will be responsible for fence maintenance on their side, or if you will be able to access their yard to stain or repair your fence when needed.This is one way to maintain your property that's been fenced off.


Prescriptive Easement.

If you set a fence inside your property line and your neighbor is able to use the property outside of the line, that portion of your property may fall under prescriptive easement. Legally, this is a type of property easement that is earned by regular use of the property. While your neighbor would not gain a legal title to the land or be able to sell it, they may be able to claim a legal right to use the property. Clearly, if the property is outside of your fenced yard, it’s likely you are not regularly using it, which is where they may be able to claim prescriptive easement. This can make it difficult if you ever want to move the fence outward, or if you sell the house and the new owners think the property outside the fence is an issue, as they don’t want to pay for unusable land.


Adverse Possession.


Adverse possession is even more legally binding than prescriptive easement. If the property “trespasser” (such as your neighbor who uses the small strip of land outside the fence) has exclusive and continuous use of the property for a number of years, he or she may claim adverse possession and legally gain ownership rights of the property. If your neighbor happens to pay taxes on that property, the adverse possession can be claimed in as little as five years, although this is very uncommon in a fence scenario! Still, you want to be aware if you install a fence inside your property line that in 10, 20 or 30 years when your home may be sold or transferred, you or the new owners may be surprised to learn that your property may not be quite as big as it used to be.

Lots of setback from the property line. A fence installed on the property line.

 

 

 

 

Aside from practical matters, like being able to use your full yard or abiding by local ordinances, selling your home may be impacted by the choices you make when you place a fence inside the property line versus on the property line. You might want to consult with multiple people – including a realtor, your local government representative, your HOA president, your neighbors, and a fence installation professional – before making a final decision.

10 Comments

  • Zequek Estrada says:

    I appreciated that list of people to consult if you’re planning on installing a fence. My husband and I want to have an aluminum fence installed around our property. However, talking to each of these people sounds like a great way to avoid any possible problems in the future.

  • Jason Hampton says:

    I have a question. My sisters and I inherited a property in town. The property has been the same for over 40 years, the fence s and everything. I met a guy that was in front the property saying that our fence line is 3 feet from where it should be. Not only that but that will take quite a bit of property because the fence will have to pulled back from the front of the property all the way to the back of the property. It’s not a square property, it’s more elongated.
    My other neighbor said that the fence has been the same for over 40 years and that he has no rights to change it now after all these years.
    My sister said just move the fence but my other sister said have him take us to court.

    Any suggestions/thoughts?

    • tyra says:

      Just move your fince, the cout will make you. Why go through the expence . Unless you can talk to the person and he agreed to let it be. Let him take you to court. Just be nice to him.

  • debi says:

    Neighbors pu up a nice fence but store there junk on my side, like cement block, awning, gutters ect
    That what I see out my kitchen window !!!

  • Janet Pope says:

    My neighbors are redoing a fence in their back yard that also runs right up to my driveway (they have front entry garage, we have side with a long driveway that curves into a garage at the very side of the house). They are extending this fence to go down our driveway about 3/4ths of the way (very narrow, one car driveway). which is going to block my view of the neighborhood from my kitchen window and also my bay windows in dining room. Virtually most of my scenic view as these are the only windows to the front. I am considering this a “spite” fence. It has no purpose as the old fence closed off the normal way (at the side/back of a property) It will enclose nothing as it is just a barrier past the gate at the back.

  • Marion Macpherson says:

    A few years ago my neighbor erected a iron fence directly on the line . Now they have cleared down to the dirt a 3 foot path outside this fence and it is on my property. ( fence is over 100 ft long). They never even asked permission to do this. Do they even have the right to be on my property clearing my land that meets their fence??! I have put native shrubs not touching their fence and they have removed them. We are into permaculture and organic gardening, our style is much different then theirs as they have a very monocultured manacured yard and our is more of the bird sanctuary type. We also wonder if herbicide was used and is that allowed??? We don’t talk to these neighbors as we had differences in the past and just try to avoid them. we like peace but feel we are being trespassed on.

  • Ophelia Simmons says:

    neighbor puts up a tacky wire fence using any kind of fencing with all sorts of poles. Then proceeds to plant plum trees,tiger worm tree and garden. Its on her property but the fence is not straight,plum trees are growing on my side which I think is her property and I’m the one who is keeping this side up. What should I do?

  • Marta montemayor says:

    What if my neighbor build his fence 1ft from supposedly my property line for he had it surveyed and put stakes as my line.he build his fence outside his property line like 5 feet .his stakes are inside his yard!!

  • kathy says:

    That’s horrible. Please tell them to move their stuff away from your fence, you saw red carpenter ants galore in that area!!

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