California’s Good Neighbor Fence Law

CA Good Neighbor Law

What is it and How Will it Help Me?

Everything you need to know about the California Good Neighbor Fence Law!

If your in need of a new division fence between you and your neighbors adjoining properties, and a dispute arises, you may be at a lose of what to do.  The most common dispute is who will incur the costs and whether or not there should be a shared responsibility due to the equal benefit the fence will have.  If this sounds familiar then your in the right place and your problem is soon to be solved with The California Good Neighbor Law also referred to as California Civil Code 841 or The Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013.

Boundary Line Fence Disputes

There are many reasons disputes may arise between neighbors when it comes to fences.  From boundary line disputes, to one of the more common issues, which is the neighbor(s) outright refusal to help pay for the cost of a new fence, maintenance or repairs. 

Most would agree that, yes, in most cases, splitting the cost is the right thing to do and “fair”.  Despite this, many neighbors will downright refuse to pay a penny towards the costs. 

Whether they are facing financial hardships of their own, are very tight with their money, or just take no pride in the upkeep of their property, the refusal usually comes from the misconception that they are not legally responsible to pay.  Where on earth this belief ever came from is unknown, but it is widely accepted and 100% wrong!

What Do I Do?

So you are presented with the same predicament?  It wouldn’t be fair for you to pay for the whole fence, and the law is clear that you don’t have to.

CA Civil Code Section 841

Here is the Actual Law for those of you who like reading this sort of stuff –  CIVIL CODE Section 841

And for those of you who would rather read a layman’s description of the California Good Neighbor Fence Law, here goes…

CA’s Good Neighbor Fence Law Summary

In California, two people whose properties border each other are both required to maintain an existing fence between the properties, with only a few exceptions.  In short, each owner has to pay one-half of the cost of maintaining or replacing the fence.

Exceptions to The Good Neighbor Fence Law

Of course, like many laws there are exceptions.

  • If your neighbor has never fenced his land, he does not have to provide a fence that only really serves you.
    • This applies to those who live in rural areas where fences are not as common and many landowners don’t want to build or maintain a fence around their property.  In this case, if a neighbor builds a fence, the fenceless owner doesn’t have the pay for it.  Unless the fenceless owner someday decides to fence in his own property benefitting from the already existing division fence.  In that case, he has to pay the other owner for one-half of the already existing fence.  To put it much more simply, If a property owner benefits from the fence, he has to contribute to its cost.

What if My Neighbor Doesn’t Care if Fence Falls Down

A lot of people make the argument that since they don’t care if their property has a fence or not, they aren’t benefiting from the fence.  Well, it’s simpler than that.  If the neighbor has a fence around his house, whether he likes it or not, a court will find that he benefits from the fence. Period.

For example, in the area where you live, all of the houses have had fenced yards going way back to the 1950s.  Your neighbor is on the hook for half of the new fence.

However, you can be right and still have to pay for the whole fence.  This is if you don’t take the proper steps leading up to the construction of the fence.

The Proper Legal Steps to Take to Ensure Victory

If you have ever sat through a small claims court session you undoubtedly saw at least one litigant going after a neighbor to pay for half of a fence. It happens all the time.

So what do you do?

  1. Start out by documenting the current condition of the fence.  Include good color pictures.
  2. Call a minimum of 3 fencing companies, such as RC Fences and Decks, and get clear and concise bids from each!
  3. Print out a copy of the Notice of Intent to Alter Shared Boundary Fence.   Fill it out fully and send it to your neighbor by certified mail with a return receipt requested a minimum of 30 days before beginning construction.
  4. Schedule one of the fence contractors, most likely you’ll want to choose RC Fences and Decks, due to their superb attention to detail along with their reasonable prices,  but keep all of the bids so you can show that the price was reasonable.
  5. Once the fence is completed, make payment in full to the contractor, making sure to keep all documents such as invoices, receipts, copies of your check, etc. for court!
  6. Make a demand to the neighbor for half of the costs.

If he still refuses now you will need to go down to the courthouse and file a small claims suit against your neighbor and pay the small fee.

Prepare for your Court Date

When you show up for court be prepared with the pictures, the bids, a copy of your check, a copy of the 30 day notice and proof of service, as well as a copy of Code of Civil Procedure section 841.

As the law is on your side, the case is a sure win, as long as you followed the proper procedure outlined above.  The only issue is now you must collect the amount ordered to be paid to you.  This, as many people know, can be a whole other issue, and information on the collection can be found on your local county court self-help website.

If you have any further questions regarding California’s Good Neighbor Fence Law call RC Fences today and we can walk you step by step through the entire process to make sure you don’t make any mistakes and risk having to pay the entire cost of your new beautiful fence!

For more information or questions please call RC FENCES @ (925) 405-7658 or email at info@rcfences.com.

 

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Comments

  1. We live on a hillside, so our backyard is 3 stories down. Our neighbor just built a fence on the property line without any discussion with us that separates our 2 lower side yards, so we now have no access to the area under our side stairs. We need to have some stucco repair to the side of our house in that area and would like to be able to get in there periodically to weed, etc. We asked if we could pay for a gate to be put into the fence at our cost so we could have access to the area. They have refused, saying that that don’t want us to have free access to their property-we would literally only have to take 4-5 steps on their property to get to our our property under the stairs. They said that they would give us permission when we asked, to enter their backyard by their stairs on the other side of their house, which would then involve us or workers to have to cross their whole backyard, which is an artificial grass putting green! Shouldn’t we have a right to easily access our own property?

  2. Hello, My neighbor installed a 6 foot rod iron fence with brick pillars which is about 3 to 4 inches on my property The fence is only about 15 feet long and was installed years ago. I never paid any attention to it until he but he recently attached a 3 foot rod iron fence to extend the fence to the sidewalk in which he put on his property. Now there are two fences that not only a too totally different styles but heights. Which has become an eyesore. I mentioned it to my neighbor and he does not see anything wrong with the two fences. I know I can’t remove the 3 foot rod iron fence because it is totally on his property but can I remove the 6 foot fence that is on my property? that would force him to install another 3 foot rod iron fence on his property.

  3. Right now, we have a block wall fence between my neighbor’s house and ours. Our neighbor wants to replace the fence with vinyl fence. But we do not like the look of vinyl fence. We would rather have a wooden fence if the existing block wall cannot be fixed or strengthened. But, our neighbor says that vinyl fence is the cheapest. Do we have to go along with my neighbor’s choice because they can prove that vinyl fence is cheapest with written estimate. If we cannot agree, can we each build our own choice of fence? They have their vinyl fence and we have our wooden fence (though not economically sound).

  4. We are planning on filling our in-ground pool and need a shared fence temporarily removed to allow for pool demolition equipment to enter the backyard. We’ve contacted our neighbor to alert him of the project but he refuses to have the fence removed. We can’t move forward with the project without the fence removed. What can we do?

  5. My neighbor replaced our old Good neighbor fence. We were both in agreement to pay half each. Our properties backup to a small slope. Redwood trees at top of slope in his his corner hides the fencing in this area. He set the first two panels on the slope with good side facing him. He did not cut the wood to fit the slope setting the first panel adjacent to backyard neighbor fence up off the ground, leaving a large, hollowed out, open area in the slope on my side which now will cause erosion, and I believe failure of the fence when winter comes. Also a small child or animal could possibly get into his yard and get in his pool. He also damaged a small two foot retaining wall that serves in that corner of my yard as a decorative feature as well as a way to halt erosion. Do I have to pay for this to be fixed? Am I still responsible for half? The panel sits at about 8-9 ft off the ground. Maybe higher.
    Thank you,
    Shirley Jean

  6. Our situation is somewhat different then what I have yet read. Our backyard back fence ( about 100 feet long) had a wooden fence built on our property. Our neighbors property has their front yard side fence built on their property, parallel to our fence, about 16 inches from our fence along the entire way. Without consulting us they decided to remove their fence and replace it with a six foot vinyl fence. (on their property) We were never asked to pay for any of it. The sides of our yard are 6′ white vinyl. They put up white posts and rails, tan slats. However our back fence was not vinyl, but an older wooden fence, in some need of repair. ( However in our mind that project was 2 to 3 years away as we were already spending more on other priority projects) I noticed this work going on on the last day the contractor was finishing up. He offered to remove our old wooden fence for $600.00. I said great, but I would throw the neighbors a bone and, as a curtsey, pay them something. ( I had 300 to 500 in mind) He mentioned that was very nice and most neighbors would not do this. He was not able to remove our fence othe next day, but was able, last minute to come three days later when we were out of town for the day. He came and did the job. The next day, while I was gone, the neighbor came to my wife very agitated and critical, saying, how inconsiderate this was for us to do, how could we, and it was his fence and we were using it and “encroaching on his property. Remember he…
    Never consulted us. Never asked for financial help. Never gave us the opportunity to make a selection that matched our existing fence. Never allowed us to consider disparate bids. And approached us in an aggressive and very critical manner.

    Are we under any legal obligation to pay him a penny? I would still consider paying him a curtsey fee, yet am certainly less inclined to do so now.

    All the best.

  7. I have a shared fence with my neighbor and we plan to share the cost of the fence equally. However, it was brought to my attention that the retaining wall the fence is on is failing and will need to be replaced before the fence can go up. Does this mean both neighbors are responsible for the cost of the retaining wall as well?

    1. Melissa, very good question. It gets a little complicated when it comes to retaining walls. Before I can answer your question as to who would be responsible for the retaining wall I need to know the following information:

      -Whose property if higher up, i.e. whose property is the retaining wall actually retaining?
      -Was the wall there from the very beginning when the houses were built or is it because of some type of new construction?
      -Was the retaining wall initially required because the lower neighbor graded their property and therefore it was their responsibility to provide support to the uphill neighbor whose natural support they cut away during the grading and leveling of the property. Or is it apparent the uphill neighbor backfilled their property for one reason or another which created the need for the wall?
      -Lastly, and I believe the answer is yes to this but is the retaining wall on the boundary line separating you from your neighbors’ property?

      I know this sounds very complicated and it is, so please try and answer the questions to the best of your ability!

  8. There is a brick wall between me and my neighbor. The wall is leaning significantly toward my property and I am afraid it could fall. My relationship with this neighbor is not good. I’m confident if I contracted any work on the wall he would not allow workers on his property. What recourse do I have? I am very concerned the wall could fall.

  9. I don’t think I see this covered: I share a fence with a neighbor, and they have six 2-story-tall trees (overgrown weeds, really) growing tightly next to each other, just on their side of the fence. They’re so close that the trunks of the trees have pushed against the lower fence rail and caused the fence to separate from one of the posts and lean into my yard. against one of my trees. Two questions:
    1. If the failure is due to encroachment by my neighbor’s trees, should they bear the full cost?
    2. If they bear the cost, it’s probably not my business; but if we share the cost, is it reasonable for me to ask my neighbor to remove the trees before repairing (or replacing) the fence?

  10. Hi – we live in a resort area and our neighbor who does not live full time at his home, wants a fence between our yards to keep his dog in, privacy, etc.

    He’s going forward with it and we will get the framed side.

    What options do I have? We can’t afford the cost for the fence that he wants…($14k). Will we need to pay?

    Is it his right to put the framed side facing us? If so, can I put up planks on my side, once it’s built?

    Thanks

  11. My neighbor fence between the driveways in California needs to be replaced from wind damage last December. I reported to my insurance and they paid for half the replacement cost. The neighbor verbally agreed to this via texts and I sent quotes via texts. He does not live in the area. Then he said he would come up and build the fence and also move my gate for which I would pay him for and 1/2 the neighbor fence. He has not responded to my texts since May as to when he will replace the fence. Then his brother who lives in the house said he would do it and never provided quotes. My last correspondence by text with the homeower who lives out of the area is if you want it done now you can do that and pay for it all yourself. I contracted with a contractor to do the job this month and let the brother know 2 months ago I did this because he never responded with a quote and I can finance the fence with the contractor and the homeowner is not responding. Today the homeowner is tearing down a portion of the fence and replacing it with no notice and said he is not replacing the whole fence as we agreed nor my gate. He was not nice when I went out to talk to him about it. At this point I don’t care about the money but he keeps saying he paid for the last 3 fences which is not true. I had not notified him yet of the contractor doing the job as it just got scheduled. It is less than 30 days out should I still provide him with a notice to do the work only and not seek payment? I will have to replace the rest of the fence to install the gate since I am moving it. I appreciate your advice. Thanks!

  12. I share a fence that is 75’ long with a neighbor. We both want to replace it. Only 43’ of that fence serves me, and then my gate encloses my yard. My gate is set back from the street more than my neighbor’s. 32’ of additional fence along the property line serves the neighbor alone as his gate is closer to the front of his house. That 32’ of fence is behind a large hedge and is not even visible from my property. Am I responsible for half of 75’ of fence on the property line, or only half of 43’ of fence that serves me?

  13. I have owned my house since it was built, in the early ’70s. The whole development had to hire their own landscapers to do their front yards. Our nextdoor neighbor decided to incorporate a 3 ft decorative fence, in the style of their landscaping, which had an Asian flair. This was attached to the existing sideyard fence that was part of the development’s construction. We had no say in the decorative fence. It just appeared one day. We did not like it. It clashed with the style of our house. We didn’t do anything about it, as we didn’t want to cause problems in our first year here. During these early years, most of the neighborhood had children. Any time children, especially my own, sat on the fence, the homeowner would yell “get off my fence”. It was always referred to as their fence, and nobody else could touch it. Fine. To keep the peace, we planted shrubs that created a barrier between our lawn and THEIR fence, so nobody can get to their fence from our side. Eventually, we could no longer see the fence from our side. We just accepted that it was their fence, since we didn’t approve it to be on the property line or attached to the main sideyard fence, and we were forbidden to touch it. But over the years, their sprinklers, trees planted too close and their own children caused the fence to be constantly in a state of disrepair. They replaced it a couple of times, and eventually changed the style to a more traditional looking front yard fence. I still can’t see this fence from my property. It is entirely visible on their side.

    Those people moved out and a new family moved in. I came home from work one day and noticed they had replaced this fence (visible from the street as I passed). The husband came racing over as soon as he saw me drive up to inform me that I owe him $500 for this fence. I told him that this was not my fence, and explained the history. He argued that it was, and that the neighbor on the other side of him gladly paid her portion, and told me that legally, I have to pay. Although I was not informed in advance, not included in the planning, never saw a quote or even a final bill, I felt bullied, and paid him the $500. (Personally, I think we paid for the whole fence for him.) A week later, I came home to find a ‘for sale’ sign in his lawn.

    Anyway, now that I told my story, I want to get your opinion on whether or not I was within my rights (morally and legally), to refuse to pay for a decorative front yard fence that solely compliments his landscape and is not standard in our neighborhood (even though I did end up paying). Also, it would be good to know for the future in case it happens again. The development has remained pretty much the same over the years, and only a handful of people chose to put up decorative front yard fences. Most houses have nothing between them in the front yards other than a concrete mowing strip or plants, if anything.

  14. My neighbor put up a 6ft wood fence 4 inches from the existing 6ft wood fence on their side of the property. The existing fence isn’t bad at all. Still, we would have been happy to go 50/50 on a new fence but they did not inform us and did ask for us to help pay for a new fence. They have the planks on their side and our side has the 2x4s. We’d be up for taking down the existing fence down and adding new planks to our side of the new fence but aren’t sure about it since it’s 4 inches away from the original fence. I wish they would have just talked to us about going in 50/50 on a new fence.

  15. My neighboring fence completely collapsed during a storm. The neighbor has a large tree that pushed against the fence along with an old mattress behind their shed that did not help with the fence integrity. We gave them a written letter explaining that we would be repairing the fence along with their equal responsibility for the cost of repair. We also included a timeline of when we planned on repairing the fence ( that weekend ) and to contact us if there were concerns or wanted to further discuss the cost and/or actions of the repair (included name and number) .We did not give them a 30 day notice however as we have a dog and the fence was completely collapsed (are you suppose to wait 30 days in these situations? what if my dog runs off? what about security/privacy?) They had a 5 day notice from time of the written letter to the fence being repaired. If the neighbors refuse to pay half of the costs for repairing the fence, will we be able to take them to small claims? We saved all receipts from the hardware store.

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