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How to Determine Who Owns a Fence

Who Owns Fence

How to Determine Who Owns a Fence

In many cases, property ownership is pretty cut and dried. Something constructed on your property belongs to you, and something constructed on your neighbor’s property belongs to them. This, of course, applies to fences. However, since fences are often used to distinguish one person’s property from another’s, it is not always that cut and dried.

Not sure who owns the fence that sits between your property and your neighbor’s? This is a more common issue than you’d guess, especially when it comes time to determine who is responsible for putting the time, money, and manpower into doing repairs. Luckily, there are a few ways to determine who the legal owner of a fence is.

Legal Documents

This simplest and most certain way of determining the owner of a fence is by examining the legal documents regarding your property. If you purchased the property with the fence already installed, the fence should be accounted for in the paperwork from when you acquired the property.

Documents to re-examine to determine if you own the fence bordering your property include your transfer documents and conveyance deed. If it is not explicitly stated in the writing in one of those documents, you can also look at your title plan. On the title plan, items on the boundary line, including fences, should be marked with a “T” on your side of the fence if you have sole ownership of the fence. However, if it is marked with an “H,” that indicates that you and your neighbor both own the fence, and the cost of maintenance should be split between the two of you, typically with you repairing your side and vice versa.

Minnesota Law

Minnesota law has specific guidelines regarding “partition fences,” or fences that divide two pieces of property. Under Minnesota law, a partition fence is built and maintained with equal responsibility being shared between the owners of the properties it borders.

The two conditions for a “legal and sufficient” partition fence are as follows:

  • One or both of the owners wants the land completely or partially fenced
  • The land of one or both owners must be improved and used

To learn more about “legal and sufficient” fences, you can visit the Minnesota House of Representatives Information Brief on Minnesota Partition Fence Law.

This means that in the state of Minnesota, one property owner can legally compel their neighbor to build, pay for, and maintain half of a partition fence. Additionally, if one landowner uses an existing fence to enclose their land, they must pay the owner of that original fence one-half of the current value of that fence.

This is a state law. Individual towns or counties may enact separate laws regarding shared fences.

Fence Viewers

If there is a dispute between neighbors regarding a partition fence, a fence viewer, or an official with the ability to administer and enforce fence laws, can be brought out to examine the fence and determine the appropriate division of cost when it comes to fence maintenance. A fence viewer is typically a local administrator who is employed by the city or county in which you live. A fence viewer’s service typically comes with a moderate bill.

Once a fence viewer has delivered their legal decision to both parties, that decision is final. If one party refuses to abide by that decision, they could end up having to pay their neighbor for the entire cost of the fence.

Exceptions to Minnesota’s Partition Fence Law

Neighbors are allowed to make their own decisions and agreements regarding fence payments and repairs. However, these agreements must be written and filed with your county recorder to be legally binding.

It is important to remember that the Minnesota Partition Fence Law is a state law, and your county or city could have its own laws regarding partition fencing.

Does My Neighbor Have to Repair Their Fence?

There are no laws that require your neighbor to repair their fence, even if it is totally falling apart. If it is not your fence, you also do not have the legal right to repair it. You can hire a fence viewer to come and manage the dispute, but if it is truly on your neighbor’s property, there is nothing to be done legally speaking.

What you can do is build a fence next to your neighbor’s fence on your own side of the property line. This allows you to maintain the boundary fence between your property and your neighbor’s without having to wait around for other people to do their own repairs.

Can a Fence Be Put Up Without My Permission?

If your neighbor wants to put up a fence on the property line, they need to notify you in writing 30 days before they install a fence. In Minnesota, according to the Partition Fence Law, you can be compelled to pay half of the cost of building the fence. The same goes for tearing down and replacing a fence on a property line in Minnesota.

However, if you or your neighbor is determining the style of a fence on the border of your property, you typically need to come to an agreement about the material, style, and color of the fence. Beyond being a legal requirement, this is common courtesy among neighbors when building a fence on the border of two pieces of property.

Can I Make Changes to My Neighbor’s Fence?

If the fence is on your neighbor’s property, it belongs to them. You have no legal right to make any changes to the fence. If you cause damages to a fence that does not belong to you, you can be held legally liable and required to pay for damages. Even small changes like painting the fence or doing touch-ups cannot legally be done without your neighbor’s permission.

Building a Fence with Northland Fence

Before deciding to have a fence built that sits on or near the boundary between your property and a neighbor’s, you should come to an agreement about whether you have co-ownership of the fence, with costs and responsibilities being split, or if you alone own the fence and take sole responsibility for it. You should also familiarize yourself with all local laws, codes, and homeowners association rules to ensure that everything is in order. When you hire Northland Fence, we will help you ensure that your fence is 100% up to code.

Here at Northland Fence, we want the highest-quality materials for you and your family. That’s why we offer high-quality vinyl fencing, chain-link fencing, and metal fencing.

And when you do need repairs to your fencing, there’s little need for a dispute. We offer a lifetime, non-prorated warranty on our materials and 10 years on our labor.

Are you ready to build your dream fence? Call (763) 316-4881 and get started today!

FAQ

Which side of the fence do you own?

According to Minnesota law, you own the side of a border fence facing your property, which you are responsible for maintaining.

How do you prove who owns a fence?

Who owns a fence can be proved through legal documents, including transfer documents, a conveyance deed, or a title plan. If a fence is entirely on your property, it is your fence. If the fence is entirely on your neighbor’s property, it is their fence. If you cannot determine who owns the fence through documents, you can bring out a fence viewer who is able to determine ownership of the fence.

Who owns the fence between two yards?

According to Minnesota law, a partition fence or a fence between two yards is owned by both neighbors, and the responsibility and cost of maintenance are split equally between them. If you have a dispute about who owns the fence, you can bring out a fence viewer who has the legal ability to determine the responsibility of each landowner.

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