Be clear and communicative in approaching a neighbor about replacing an old fence. Don’t settle on any plans until they have agreed. Be prepared to pay fully but offer the neighbor the option to contribute. Know where the property line is. The new fence should be on par with or better than the old.
Most regular neighborhoods in the United States feature shared fences. As a result, regardless of your reason for wanting your fence replaced, you need to bear in mind that as long as it borders around your neighbor(s) property, it might affect them as well.
If you are ready to change your fence but do not know how to broach the topic to your neighbor, here is a detailed guide to help you through the process.
In order to avoid fence disputes or rifts, here are some of the things you need to take into consideration.
Where Are the Property Lines?
Property lines are the legal boundaries of a property.
You might think; why would I have to consider property lines when all I’m doing is replacing and not building a new fence? Well, unless you were around when the fence was built and know for sure that it was built on the property line and not within the borders of your neighbor’s property (or yours!) then you’d have to establish the location of the property lines.
If the fence is cutting off a portion of your land, then getting it sorted out quickly is imperative because of something called adverse possession. If the fence is cutting off a portion of the neighbor’s property, you can use this to motivate them to agree to the replacement.
However, even if you are sure of the placement of the current fence, if you intend to build a wider fence or wall you still might have to determine the location of the property lines. So that if there is going to be an extension, it would be into your property and not take up space from your neighbor’s property.
The builder of the current fence might not have paid much attention to the property lines. Thus, to avoid encroaching on surrounding properties, this is something you shouldn’t ignore.
How Can You Find out About Property Lines?
The best and most accurate way to determine your property lines is by performing a land survey. However, this might be beyond a lot of people’s budget, so you might have to utilize an alternative method.
Your homeowner’s deed would contain information on the land measurements. So, that’s a good place to start. With a measuring tape, you can determine the boundaries of your house by following the measurements in the deed.
If your home is built on platted land, then you can determine the boundaries of your property with the help of a platted map. A platted map shows how properties in a city, county, or neighborhood are divided. Thus, the boundary of every portion of land would be specified on the map. Boundaries in platted regions can also be discovered with the help of apps like LandGlide or Geo Measure Area Calculator.
Mortgages and title insurance usually require a land survey. So, if you have a recent mortgage or title insurance on your property, you could contact the company to know if you can get a copy of the survey.
Alternatively, you can contact your county’s recorder or assessor’s office.
How Many Neighbors Are Involved?
If you’re replacing the fence around your house, then you’d probably have to deal with more than one neighbor. This means that you’d be dealing with different personalities and temperaments. While one neighbor might not mind the changes you intend to make, the other might not be open to your idea and might prove difficult to convince. And if you proceed to build the fence regardless, they might make things difficult for you.
If you are aware of the temperament of each neighbor, it will help while talking to them about the development you intend to make. In the event that you do not know them at all, then try to be as cordial as possible when you approach them.
You’d probably want the fences around your home to match and this might be an issue if all parties involved are not in agreement. So, it’s best to put this into consideration even before deciding on the type or design of the new fence.
You might want to replace your fence for a variety of reasons. It could be because of:
- Aging or weathering of the current fence.
- Privacy and security purposes.
- Improved aesthetics.
Your reason for changing the fence would affect the type of fence you install. So, unless your reason for replacing the fence is that it is old or damaged, then your neighbor might not see things from your perspective.
Don’t forget that the same way you’re sharing fences with multiple homes, your neighbors also have fences that are not connected to your property. Thus, if you intend to divert completely from what is in place, they may be disagreeable with the process.
For instance, if your neighbor(s) have palisade fencing in place and you intend to erect a stone wall and iron fence, the lack of uniformity might be displeasing to their aesthetic sense. So, while making a decision you need to find a middle ground that is likely to be agreeable to all parties involved.
This decision might not pose that much of a challenge if you are dealing with just one neighbor.
Apart from the preferences of your neighbors, you need to consider the fencing rules of the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) if applicable. You might want to erect a protective wall around your home and the neighborhood law states that all houses should have a short PVC fence.
Also, your project must comply with any existing zoning regulations.
Note that a sure way to attract the displeasure of your neighbors is to propose a fence that could be considered a downgrade to the existing fence, especially if the current fence isn’t really in poor shape.
Are There Pets in the Yards?
You wouldn’t want your neighbor’s pet(s) to wander into your property because the rails aren’t compact enough to contain them. And if you own pets, you wouldn’t want to put out a search party for your missing pet and have your neighbor knock at your door to let you know that they found your doggy in their compound.
Thus, while selecting the style and material for the fence, you should ensure that whatever you are using is pet-proof. This would not only prevent them from wandering but will also prevent domestic accidents that could arise if they wander into unfamiliar territory.
After you’ve decided on the type of fence you want to build, you should keep your neighbors abreast of the construction schedule. This ensures that they keep their pets safe so that they do not run into dangerous equipment during the building process. If you have pets, you should also keep them safe and away from the backyard or wherever you’re having a fence erected.
Will Construction Interfere With Neighbor’s Job?
Another factor that you’d need to take into consideration is the nature of your neighbor’s job as well as their plans. That’s why it’s wise to inform them before you start building.
If your neighbor runs a daycare, meditation classes, yoga sessions, or any activity that requires quiet, then you should probably schedule the project on their days off so that it doesn’t disturb their business.
Another thing to consider if your neighbor has a daycare is the security of the children. Your fencing company should be informed beforehand so that they’re extra careful in case any child happens to be in the vicinity.
Discussing your project timeline would also prevent you from clashing with your neighbor’s plans. For instance, you wouldn’t want to schedule the project on a day your neighbor is having an outdoor party.
You could suggest a date and ask if it would be okay for them as well.
Some Important Tips for the Approach
Here are some tips to help you have a successful discussion with your neighbor.
Don’t Be Confrontational
It’s tempting to get confrontational or high-handed when you approach your neighbor, especially if the current fence is in poor shape.
But even if you’re new in the area, you’re probably going to live next to this person/people for a while, so the more cordial the process is, the better for everyone involved.
If you are on friendly terms with your neighbor, that makes the discussion a lot easier. However, if you aren’t familiar with them, it still isn’t a problem. Of course, you might have to introduce yourself to them, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is your manner of approach.
Yes, the fence might be beneficial to both parties but you wouldn’t want to provoke a neighbor who would go to lengths to make the process a nightmare. Thus, you should approach them with a polite and affable disposition.
Keep a Record of All Communications
To prevent misunderstandings, it’s prudent to keep records of every important communication you have regarding the erection of the new fence.
You can write it down, stipulating the day it happened so that they know you’re sure of what you’re saying.
If you’re doing the planning alone, then there might not be a lot of discussion about the issue. It might just involve informing them of your plans, getting their response, and probably setting a date that’s convenient for both parties.
However, if your neighbor is actively involved in the process then you’d have a lot more to document.
In both cases, it wouldn’t hurt to have written proof of important interactions.
Your notes should be honest and shouldn’t be altered to favor you. If you do this with a discerning neighbor, he/she might lose trust in you.
The Initial Approach Can Be Simple
You don’t need to have all the details of the project figured out before approaching your neighbor. Once you’ve covered the basics then you can reach out to them.
Since you do not know if your neighbor will be interested in contributing to the project, it’s better to contact them before finalizing your plans. This also makes them a lot more agreeable because it shows that you respect and care for their opinion.
Another benefit of contacting your neighbor before finalizing with a fencing company or contractor is that it would save you the stress and expenses of having to adjust your plans if your neighbor is strongly opposed to what you decided upon.
The first step could be a short note sent to their mailbox with details like your reason for replacing the fence, the proposed cost, material to be used, the schedule for the project, and how they can contact you. If you have their contact details, you can send a message to them with this information.
Be Willing to Pay the Full Cost
The issue of sharing fence-building expenses has led to numerous rifts between neighbors. One thing you need to have in mind while venturing into the project is that you cannot cajole your neighbor to contribute if they don’t want to.
And it’s not necessarily because they are trying to be unreasonable, they might not be at that place financially. So, since it’s you who’s ready to build the fence, you might just have to foot the bill.
Thus, if you intend to change your fence, especially one that’s still in decent condition, be ready to shoulder the entire expenses. If your neighbor contributes to the project, it will be a welcome relief, but if they don’t, it’s still not going to upset your plans.
Give Neighbors Option to Contribute
Although you should be prepared to pay for the project without help from your neighbor(s), you should also give them an option to contribute.
They can either agree or refuse and if they agree to chip in, then you get to save cost, which is always a good thing.
The fact that they have a financial stake in the project would make them more agreeable to the process. They might also make helpful suggestions.
This could even improve your relationship as you can bond through the project.
You both should agree on the nature of the payment. You could agree that they bring whatever they have or you can split the bill 60% to 40% or even 50% to 50%.
Be Honest and Transparent Throughout the Process
One quality that makes or breaks relationships of every kind is trust, or rather, anything that jeopardizes trust. Your approach and subsequent interactions with them should be such that they understand and also believe what you’re saying.
I know it might be tempting to go ahead with your plans without going through the hassle of informing the other parties involved. I’m also aware that some homeowners have done that without any consequence but you wouldn’t want to invest your time and efforts to find out how your neighbor acts when they’re disregarded.
You should keep your neighbors aware of important information like the project’s timeline and what it would involve so that they know what to expect.
Even though you are aware that they might be opposed to your decision, you have to inform them of the type of fence you intend to erect. It’s better if you both come to an agreement than for a misunderstanding to arise when the construction is in progress.
Sample of the Official Letter
You need to make your letter as detailed as possible. Let it include the basic information about the project so that they have a reasonable idea of what the project involves. It wouldn’t do to send out a one-sentence letter that says;
“Hey, it’s John Thomson, your neighbor. We share a backyard fence and I intend to pull it down and erect a new fence on 12th December. Take care.”
There are so many things missing in this letter if you want to call it a letter at all. Here are some of the details that you should include in your letter.
- Name and contact details: You should include your name and that of the neighbor you are addressing the letter to. If you would like to go through an extremely formal route, you can include the two addresses at the top of the letter. You would also need to add your contact details so that they know how to reach you.
- Your reason for writing the letter.
- The type of fence: You’d have to inform them of the material the fence would be made of. Is it a wooden fence, a brick wall fence, a barbed-wire fence, or a vinyl fence? You should also include specific information about the style. Would it be a wooden palisade fence or an aluminum palisade fence?
- Fence dimension and location.
- 3 different quotes, which you would like to go with, and your reason.
- Timeline of the project: This should include the proposed time to dismantle the old fence, when the construction of the new fence would begin, and when it would end. You’d want to give them an idea of how long the entire process would take.
- What you intend to do with the debris of the old fence.
- Confirmation of compliance with HOA (if applicable). I also have a guide on getting your fence approved by an HOA.
- Invitation to contribute to the project.
- An offer to meet in person for further discussion of any queries or concerns they have.
Here is a sample letter:
1718 River Valey Blvd,
Fort Worth, TX 76132
December 2, 2021
1721 River Valey Blvd,
Fort Worth, TX 76132
Replacement of Weathered Shared Fence
I’m writing to let you know that I’d like to replace our shared fence. As you might have noticed the fence has started to fall over and is due for a replacement.
I intend to replace the wooden fence with an aluminum unit. In accordance with the HOA guidelines, the new fence will still have a palisade design and a height of 7 ft.
The new fence would have the same dimensions and location as the current fence.
I’ve spoken with a couple of fencing companies. The top three companies sent quotes of $5000, $4800, and $5200. I’ve attached a copy of each to this letter.
I decided to go with Heverest Constructions, the company with the $5000 total cost because they provide discarding services for the old fence, and the timeframe they gave is the best of the three. If you are interested in finding out more about them, you can check their website (www.heverestconstructions.co).
The project is expected to commence on January 6, 2022, and it is supposed to last through January 8, 2022. However, if this isn’t convenient for you, we can agree on different dates.
You can contact me on 817 000 888, or email@example.com if you have any questions or you could call me and we can meet up to discuss your concerns.
I’m open to financial contributions toward the project.
Download the free pdf template of the letter here.