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Can a neighbor tear down an existing shared fence if we cannot agree what type of fence to put up?

San Diego, CA |

The fence needs replacing but the existing fence is falling over because the dirt has eroded away on their side from lack of maintenance. (We are losing part of our side of the property into their yard now) They gave us a quote for exactly the same type of fence that is falling over and we gave a quote that includes the proper footing that is needed to maintain the stability of the fence. (Nothing fancy) He does not want to pay for additional support because he is probably going to sell in a year or two (he currently rents it out). We plan on living here indefinitely. If we say that we do not want the cheap fence to go up because it will only need to be replaced in a couple of years, can our neighbor go ahead and tear it down anyway and put up the cheap fence without our okay?

Can we suggest that he erects his fence on his side of the property and when it comes time that we can afford to pay for the entire fence, we will do it on our own? Should I get the county involved since we seem to be losing land? (There is a 4-6 foot drop between property levels right on the fence line. We currently have wood boards at the bottom of our fence (on our side) holding the dirt in place.

Attorney Answers 2


yeah the county may help due to the erosion IF it poses a potential danger so sure call them. You can suggest anything you want to the neighbor including separate fences or mt suggestion is you can offer to credit the amount if the cheaper one toward the stronger one and you pay the difference. He may physically be able to tear it down and rebuild cheaper one just like you can do the same but you can not force him to pay half the expensive one, (absent county requirement).So you take charge here and build what you want with his written agreement and have him pay you first toward better fence. The tear down is shared cost

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and may not be relied on as attorney-client advice.

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California "good neighbor" fence law used to be relatively simple: neighbors had to share in the reasonable cost of erecting fences. The California legislature, in its infinite wisdom, has recently enacted a complex procedure for resolving fence disputes that unfortunately requires the involvement of an attorney in many cases. Whether or not they can erect a fence without your agreement depends on whether or not they've complied with the new statutory procedure.

It may still be possible to work something out with your neighbor. If you want a nicer fence than your neighbors, consider trying to negotiate with them so that you still split the cost, but perhaps you pay a slightly higher percentage. That would certainly be less expensive for both parties than erecting separate fences, and you could still get the fence you want.

You may wish to speak to a local property attorney or an inexpensive neighborhood mediator to determine if there are some low-cost options to assisting you and your neighbor resolve this issue.

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT. Of course, without having heard the whole story and reviewed the relevant documents, I can't give you advice, just my general opinion. If you're serious, you should contact a local attorney, rather than relying on any opining on the Internet. Jason L. Eliaser is licensed to practice law in California (State Bar number 248394.) This is a communication concerning my availability for professional employment within the meaning of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400(A). Viewing of this post does not constitute the provision of legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by viewing or responding to this post.

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