You may have heard the old adage, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Well, it’s true. Obvious boundaries can certainly reduce frustration and confusion. But good fences aren’t the only things that help maintain good relations. Trying to understand your neighbor’s point of view—and communicating your point of view clearly—can keep things neighborly and help avoid expensive and time-consuming battles.
When it comes to fences, it’s important to put them in the right spot and that’s not always easy to do. Some old, perhaps antiquated laws require property lines to be adjusted to coincide with existing fences, even if the fences were originally put in the wrong place. Property line adjustments have to do with whether the neighbors originally agreed upon erecting a fence somewhere other than the true boundary line or whether somebody made a mistake. So, make sure fences go up where you intend them to.
Figuring out the location is only the first step in putting up a good fence. Next, you must figure out what type of fence you (and your neighbor) need. Clearly, if you live next door to a cattle ranch, the fence you need is far different than if you live near someone in Ukiah’s Westside. If the fence separates two residential properties, it’s a good neighbor fence; in which case, it’s preferable to find fencing—wood or other material—that looks good on both sides. Typically things go best if both property owners sharing the fence agree on the material and split the cost of the fence. That way, everyone is invested in the success of the project. Unfortunately, agreement on what type of fence gets tricky when you want the same type of fence on all three property boundaries but your neighbors all have different types of fences. At this point, all I can say is: good luck! In the event that your fence needs repair, the law requires that both parties contribute to the cost. Of course, there will always be extenuating circumstances.
In choosing a fence, needs may differ. You have a Chihuahua and your neighbor has a Mastiff (a little bigger than a small pony), for example. You’re concerned about gaps between and under the boards, and your neighbor worries that eight feet may not be tall enough. The bottom line for fence building is the same as for almost all other matters concerning your neighbors: be considerate and talk to your neighbors and most problems can be solved without too much heartache. While you’re talking about your fence, you might also bring up the fact that their beloved Fido likes to bark at 3:00 a.m., and would he perhaps be happier spending nights in their garage rather than in the side yard adjacent to your master bedroom? It’s worth a try.
Once the fencing situation is resolved, and your neighbors’ dog is sleeping in their garage, it’s only fair that you remind your teenage son that his band, The Racket Makers, must call it quits at 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights (earlier on weeknights). Any music your neighbors can hear from your garage while they are inside their house should end at a reasonable hour—unless you’re throwing a party and everyone on the block is invited.
I’ll share some more neighborly ideas next week.
If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.