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How to Tell If a Fence is Yours

how to tell if a fence is yours

Are you and a neighbor debating who is responsible for the fence between your properties?

If the fence is on both properties, it may belong to you and your neighbor. However, there are some ways to know for sure. According to a 2019 survey, 17% of Americans had neighbor disputes regarding property lines. At Northland Fence, we have been family-owned and family-focused since 2004. Our employees can work during the off-season and can help if your dispute with your neighbor regarding the fence lasts until the fall or winter. We can install, repair, or help remove once you and your neighbor resolve your dispute. But how can you tell if the fence is yours or if it belongs to your neighbor?

How to Determine if a Fence Is Yours

In most cases, determining whether something belongs to you or your neighbor can be pretty straightforward. If the object is on your property, it is yours; if it is on your neighbors' property, it belongs to them. For many fences, this method of determination applies. 

But what about when the fence sits on the property line to distinguish one property from the other? How can you know if the fence belongs to you or your neighbor, primarily if the fence already existed when you moved in? This experience can be a common concern for many people, but the good news is that there are some ways to determine the legal owner of a fence. Often, the debate is about who is responsible for the time, work, and money for repairs.

Legal Documents That Indicate Fence Ownership

Reviewing legal documents is the easiest way to determine who owns the fence. If the fence was already there when you purchased the property, the paperwork you received when you acquired it should document the owner of the fence. The paperwork that will most likely indicate the fence's owner would be transfer documents, conveyance deed, and title plan. If the transfer documents or conveyance deed does not explicitly state the fence's owner, you can find it on the title plan. If you have sole ownership of the fence, you will see a "T;" however, if you see an “H,” both you and your neighbor own the fence. In this case, each party is responsible for maintaining their side of the fence. 

Minnesota Partition Fence Law: What Does It Say?

The Minnesota Partition Fence Law is a state law that provides guidelines for fences that divide two properties. These are for fences that are “legal and sufficient” and include:

  • At least one of the owners desires to have the land wholly or partially fenced
  • The land of at least one of the owners is at least partially improved and used

These guidelines also explain that a landowner may legally compel the owner of the adjoining property to build and maintain one-half of the fence between the two properties. Also, if a homeowner wishes to use a neighbor’s existing fence to enclose their land, they must pay the owner one-half of the existing fence’s value. 

According to Minnesota law, a fence is “legal and sufficient” if it consists of rails, timbers, wires, boards, stone, or any materials the fence viewer considers fences. However, remember that this is a state law, and your local government might have different guidelines for fence partition. 

Fence Viewers

If, after considering the above, you still cannot decide who is responsible for the fence, a third party, known as a fence viewer, can be brought in. According to the Minnesota fence law, one party may submit a complaint to the city's fence viewers if they believe the neighbor failed to build, repair, or maintain a fence in equal shares. If you and your neighbor cannot agree, fence viewers will investigate who should construct and maintain the fence. They may also determine if the fence needs to be rebuilt or repaired. If you and your neighbor cannot agree on the type of fence to build, the fence viewer will decide. 

However, fence viewers cannot make certain decisions. They cannot tell you where to place the fence or fix disputed boundary lines between properties. 

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Minnesota’s Partition Fence Law: Exceptions

There are a few exceptions when it comes to the Minnesota Partition Fence Law. One of those exceptions is if both neighbors agree in writing to maintain the fence between properties. While an oral agreement can work, it does not bind to future owners who have not recognized and acted upon this agreement. For example, if an oral agreement was made between you and your neighbor that you both will maintain the fence and your neighbor moves, the new owners do not have to agree to the oral agreement. 

However, if the deal is in writing and filed with the county, it “runs with the land” and binds to future property homeowners if you or your neighbor were to move. In this case, the new owners must abide by the written agreement to maintain half of the fence. 

Another exception to the law is that your local town or township may have its own fence law, which may differ slightly from the state law. 

Does Your Neighbor Have to Repair Their Fence?

Legally, your neighbor does not have to repair their chain-link fence or any other fence, even if it needs repairing. If the fence is not yours, you cannot fix it. If there is a debate on whether the fence is on your property, you can have a fence viewer manage the dispute, but if the fence is entirely on your neighbor’s property, legally, you can’t do anything about it. 

However, if you don’t want to see their fence needing repair, you can build one next to your neighbor’s in your yard. This new fence, which you own, will allow you to maintain your fence between the two properties without waiting for your neighbor to do their repairs. 

Can Your Neighbor Put a Fence Up Without Your Permission?

If your neighbor is putting up a vivyl fence or another other fence on the property line, your neighbor must notify you in writing 30 days before installing the fence. According to the Minnesota Partition Fence Law, you may have to pay half the fence cost. The same applies to tearing down or replacing a fence on the property line. You and your neighbor may also need to agree on the fence's material, style, and color. 

In Apple Valley, MN, fences on the property line must have a written agreement with the owner of the adjoining property provided to the city. This written agreement means that if your neighbor wishes to put a fence on the property line in Apple Valley, they will need to reach a written agreement with you that they provide to the city before installing their fence. 

Making Changes to Your Neighbor’s Fence: Is It Legal?

If the fence belongs to your neighbor and is on their property, you cannot legally change it. Your neighbors could hold you liable and require you to pay for damages. Damages could include actual damages or minor changes like painting the fence or doing touch-ups, as they are not legally allowed without your neighbor's permission.  

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Build Your Fence With Northland Fence in Apple Valley, MN

Once you have agreed with your neighbor on who owns the fence and what the costs and responsibilities of that fence are for each person involved, you are ready to take that step in installing the fence. Northland Fence offers many options, including vinyl, ornamental, and chain-link. We ensure that your fence is 100% up to code and that you receive the highest-quality materials. To back up our claim, we offer a lifetime warranty on vinyl and a 15-year warranty on all other materials. You deserve a fence that you can admire for years to come. 

Northland Fence has been family-owned and family-focused in Apple Valley, MN since 2004. We always have supplies in stock and never have hidden fees. If you are ready to start your dream fence or have any questions, call us at 763-316-4881 today.

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Whether you’re looking for a beautiful, maintenance-free vinyl privacy fence, a sturdy chain link fence, or a ornamental fence, we’re ready to show you why we’re Minnesota’s highest and best rated fence company.

Use this form to request a free estimate or call us at 763-316-4881.

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Northland Fence of Apple Valley

6275 147th St. W Suite 102
Apple Valley, MN, 55124

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