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ugly wood fence“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t always extend to “loving thy neighbor’s fence”. Especially if said fence is a dangerous eye sore within your community or if your property lines share a common fencing wall.
But what can you do if your neighbor refuses to maintain or repair their part of your shared fencing? Not only does it potentially compromise your privacy and security, letting all or part of it fall into disarray can cost you both more than you might expect.
According to FENCE (Sec. 27-11(b)(10)), the City of Dallas requires fence owners to ensure the structural soundness of their fences by making necessary repairs to rotted, fire damaged, or broken wooden slats and support posts, along with any metal fencing materials as well as loose bricks, stones, rocks, and the like.
Failure to do so could result in a Class C citation and fines anywhere from $200 – $2,000 which increase the longer the damage is sustained.
To avoid paying astronomical fees or getting into legal disputes with your neighbors, we have some suggestions for how to educate yourself along with some effective communication and negotiation tips to ensure the successful repair or replacement of your shared fence.

Know your responsibility

Before approaching your neighbor, it is a good idea to research the laws in your area, here are a list of links to various D/FW cities fence permit information. Local ordinances dictate the primary and shared responsibility for fencing. Even within the DFW area, the laws may vary from city to city. Dallas residents can visit the City of Dallas’ Sustainable Development and construction website for more information. Residents of other cities need to contact their city government’s code compliance website.
However, generally speaking if both home owners use or benefit from the fence, each is mutually obligated to see that a boundary fence which sits on their corresponding property line is maintained per the specifications above.
In short this means that when it comes to the cost of repair, both property owners share it.

Effectively communicate your fence plan

After arming yourself with the facts, as determined by your city ordinances, it’s time to develop a plan for completing the work. Make a list of everything that needs to be replaced or repaired and get an estimate on what it will cost to fix.
Next, contact your neighbor and coordinate an in-person meeting time where you can discuss and chart a course of action. Remember that your neighbor may simply be unaware that there are city ordinances in place that regulate boundary fences, so first, explain the violation in detail.
Keep in mind that an unemotional, non-confrontational approach is the best stance to take. Make it known that you want to cooperate on the issue at hand and offer to address any concerns that come up during your discussion.

What to do if your neighbor refuses to pay for or make their portion of the repairs?

If, despite your best efforts, your neighbor still refuses to take financial responsibility for the required one-half of the fence’s value, you may pursue further action.

  • You can start by writing a formal letter to your neighbor documenting the fence’s issues, and letting them know you’re serious about getting it fixed.
  • Hire a fence repair company to fix your fence, then send a demand letter which outlines the timeframe with which your neighbor has to pay their half.
  • Ask your neighbor to attend mediation to discuss a compromise or payment schedule.
  • Notify the city there is a code violation in your neighborhood and request an inspection.
  • Take your neighbor to small claims court for their unpaid half or to hire a real estate lawyer to sue for “the loss of enjoyment of your property”

Ultimately, taking legal action against someone who is likely a trusted neighbor is usually last in a list of options and compromises. By understanding each party’s rights and responsibilities you and your neighbor are more likely to negotiate a plan of action to fix or repair a shared boundary fence without incurring any bad blood in the process. After all, neighbors are for sharing cups of sugar, not for fighting!