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Am I responsible to pay for the fence my neighbor requested even though its not my idea?

San Francisco, CA |

My new neighbor has moved in and requested to install a new fence. The current fence is not broken, just old. Am I responsible to pay the fence when it was only their idea and not mine? What if I dont agree on the costs, will I be brought to court?

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Attorney answers 5


It's unlikely that a Court would require you to pay for a fence you do not want. Shared payment for fences is usually more of a neighborly courtesy than a legal requirement. If, however, the fenve is on you rland and it is falling onto the neighbor's land, you would be required to remove it. Good luck, Brett Pedersen


Unfortunately, the problem you have is more of a social/political problem of not wanting to get off on the wrong foot with your new neighbors because your new neighbor wants a new fence now and because the exisitng fence is still servicable it is not an expense you want or need to incur now.

While owners of a common fence are jointly responsible for the cost of maintaining the fence, the current fence does not need replacing (in your view). You really ned to sit down with your neighbors and talk this through, if possible.

As for court, it might be a small claims matter. The limit for damages is now $7500, meaning that if the total cost of the fence is under $15,000 your share would be within the jurisdiction of small claims court, assuming your neighbors wanted to take things that far. If you can show that the fence does not need replacing now, then you should not be liable. In fact, your neighbor has no right to remove the fence without your permission and to replace the fence would undoubtedly require trespassing on your property.

If you cannot work things out with the neighbor about the fence, you may want to try community mediation services as a way to structure a dialogue with your new neighbors.

Good luck.


You will not have to pay for the fence if the remainder of your property is unfenced. However, if you ever enclose the rest of your property, your liable for your share of this segment.


Adjacent property owners are required to share the cost of maintaining and replacing a fence. The property owner seeking maintenace, or replacement, is required to notify the adjacent landowner in writing of intent, to present 2-3 estimates on cost from a licensed contractor, and to request 50% participation. Prior to erecting a new fence, a permit should also be acquired.

If the current fence is not in need of replacement, you will need to take pictures in support of that argument and get a licensed contractor to write a statement affirming that the fence is not in need of replacement at this time, but may need to be replaced in X months or years. If there are minor problems with the fence, then the contractor should so state and estimate the cost of repair.

You are not required to pay to UPGRADE a fence say from wood to cinderblock.

For more information on fence and tree law, see my article at under most popular.

Disclaimer. The information posted above is for general information, does not constitute professional legal advice, and does not create an attorney client relationship. I am a corporate-business, employment and real estate attorney located in Los Angeles, California. If you require further legal assistance, please do not hesitate to visit my website ( ), or to contact me directly at 818-849-5206, or by email at:


It is unclear whether this neighbor has simply made a polite request to upgrade the fence or whether he is being pushy and aggressive about it. If the former, just tell him that you feel the fence is still serviceable and you do feel upgrading the aesthetic appearance justifies the expense. You can of course offer to allow him access to your property if he wants it badly enough to pay the entire fence. If you feel comfortable with it, you might try to soften his disappointment by plainly telling him you can't afford it. It might be wise for you to take some good photos of the fence to document its condition in case it becomes more of a problem.

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