Adding a fence to your property can increase curb appeal and boost your property value. It can also make it easier to keep your kids and pets out of the neighbors garden. It sounds like a win-win situation. However, if you dive into a fence install without taking the proper steps, you can wind up upsetting your neighbor and tearing down your fence. Building the fence you want and being a good neighbor do not have to be mutually exclusive if you follow three simple rules.
1. Stick to Pre-determined Limits and Boundaries
Without a fence, there is no physical delineation between most yards. There may be an agreed-upon line where you stop mowing, and your neighbor begins. You may have an invisible fence for the dog that keeps her on your property. However, if you haven’t had a recent property or plat survey done, you may not know precisely where your yard ends, and theirs begins.
If you proceed to build a fence based on agreed-upon assumptions and the fence falls on your neighbor’s property, they have the right to remove it or alter it. It is best to hire a land surveyor to mark the property line so that there is no dispute over where the fence lies.
The fencing contractor you hire to build your fence will likely build the fence one or two feet inside the property line. While this may seem odd at first, there are a couple of reasons for building this way. First, it guarantees that the fence is on your property. Second, it provides an easement for you to access the outside of your fence for painting, staining, or repairs.
It is also essential to stick to zoning limits and building codes for your new fence. Zoning laws will dictate the allowable height and setback for fences in your area. Typically, fencing in the back and side yard can be six feet tall. However, front yard fencing often must not exceed four feet. This limit helps to preserve the line of sight for motorists.
2. Follow Homeowner’s Association Regulations
Your fencing company does not keep track of the rules and regulations for every neighborhood they serve. The burden falls to you to find out what the HOA allows for your area. HOA’s often dictate the style, height, and color of fences in the neighborhood. By requiring residents to build fences that meet their standards, they help keep the area looking nice and property values high. Be sure to fill out pre-approval forms if necessary.
Some HOA-maintained neighborhoods dictate a single type of fencing to maintain a uniform look from one house to the next. If that is the case, you may have very little choice in fencing. You should also take note of their maintenance requirements to avoid violations and fines.
3. Involve Your Neighbor
Keeping your neighbor apprised of your plans does not mean that you need to have a planning meeting with them. It does mean that you should make them aware of what you are planning to do and make sure that your fence will not cause significant problems for them.
For example, building a 6-foot privacy fence that shades their prize roses or their vegetable garden could cause frustration and hard feelings. Involving them before you start building gives them a chance to ask for any necessary changes. If you give them a heads up, they are also likely to be more understanding when construction begins. They may even surprise you and offer to pitch in for the cost of the fence if it benefits them as well.
Fencing etiquette dictates that the most attractive side of the fence should face outwards. Thus, the view from the road or a neighbor’s yard is the best-looking side of the fence. After it is built, you need to maintain both sides of the fence as well. Don’t let that side be out of sight be out of mind. When you perform annual checks, replace loose hardware, and restain the boards, be sure you take care of all sides of your fence.
Bonus Fencing Etiquette Tips:
- The term fence applies to anything that creates a barrier between your yard and the yard next door. These same rules apply to living fences such as hedges and rows of trees.
- If your neighbor is causing damage to your fence, try talking to them first. They may not be aware of the impact their dog or kids are having on the fence. If they are unwilling to work with you, take pictures to document the damage in the unfortunate event you have to take the issue to small claims court.
Building an attractive fence between you and your neighbor can be a great idea, providing added privacy and increasing your home’s value. Preserving your relationship with your neighbor throughout the process takes a little extra planning and communication. If you do it right, good fences can make good neighbors.