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?
- Start out by documenting the current condition of the fence. Include good color pictures.
- Call a minimum of 3 fencing companies, such as RC Fences and Decks, and get clear and concise bids from each!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 email@example.com.