A fence might protect you from burglars or prying eyes, but it can’t protect you from the complications of sharing the cost of a fence with your neighbor. In fact, some states have laws that are made specifically to resolve disputes between two neighbors over a fence.
So, here I am to your rescue. In this article, I discuss how amicably and effectively you can ask your neighbor to contribute towards a new fence without making your life complicated. I will also tell you why involving your neighbor is the correct thing to do.
Ideally, neighbors should split the cost of a fence. Both benefit, albeit not always equally. Split costs mean a better fence can be installed. Sharing costs creates a sense of shared responsibility, making maintenance easier. Neighbors can’t be expected to contribute if they don’t want or need the fence.
Neighbors Should Ideally Split the Cost of a Fence
Splitting the cost of the fence harmoniously is ideal, but not always the outcome. A fence benefits both parties, but not always equally. You might need it for some reason (maybe your kids have reached the age at which they can play outside without constant supervision), but your neighbor’s situation and fence-related needs remain the same.
In these cases, you should get their permission to build, ask if they want to contribute, but there can be no expectation.
You will find some neighbors who don’t want to have anything to do with a fence. They will permit you to install the fence, but have no interest in the outcome and don’t care what you install. Such neighbors will be reluctant to contribute.
What are the arguments in favor of sharing the cost? Maybe you can use a few of these to convince your neighbor to contribute.
Fence Benefits Both Neighbors
One of the chief benefits of installing a fence is security. It protects your home and keeps your loved ones secure. Apart from security, a fence adds to the aesthetic appeal of a property. Hence, installing a fence can also increase the property value in the market.
A fence provides you with security, beauty, and privacy. A fence provides these benefits to your neighbor as well. When you discuss adding a new fence or replacing an old one, you must emphasize the benefits and mention how a fence will be good for both homes.
The issue comes in when both neighbors don’t benefit equally. If you are motivated to put up a fence, your need for it is likely to be the greater one.
You Can Get a Better Fence
When you buy a fence, you buy it for the long haul. As such, it is only sensible that you choose a fence that is really good and long-lasting. So, if two people are contributing, you can usually get a better fence because then the budget increases, and no one has to shoulder the cost alone.
If your neighbor contributes then you can pick and choose from a large variety of fences. You can opt for a classy one that complements the neighborhood or go for a vinyl one that is a little expensive but hardly requires any maintenance.
With a good budget, you can also install a “good neighbor fence”.
A good neighbor fence is the same on both sides, making sure you and your neighbor are equally happy, and there’s no conflict about who gets the good side. Although more costly than a normal fence, a good neighbor fence is always more aesthetically appealing.
Most importantly, you need a fence that must meet the HOA standards and the zoning codes. Before choosing a fence, do refer to your HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions to know exactly what the rules are for your community regarding the fence.
If you want to know more about how to get your fence approved by the HOA, just read my article where I take you through the steps and also provide you with sample letters.
No “It’s My Fence” Issues
A significant advantage of splitting the cost with your neighbor is that there’s no brawl over the ownership of the fence. Both you and your neighbor become co-owners and are equally responsible for the maintenance of the fence.
This equation is slightly altered if the cost of the fence is not split into equal halves. If you pay 60% or 70%, then you do have more say regarding the final design of the fence and more ownership right over the fence.
I would suggest, irrespective of the amount of contribution, involving your neighbor or neighbors (if you share the boundary with multiple people) from the initial stage is a good idea. This way, you reduce the chances of any discord and increase your neighbors’ support for your idea of a new fence.
Eliminate Chance of Resentment
Once you install a fence, it becomes a part of your overall property and needs to be maintained like every other part of your home. Without proper maintenance, the fence will start to look weathered and dull, bringing down the appeal of the property and the durability of the fence.
Splitting costs of a fence ensures there’s no disagreement or confusion between you and your neighbor when it comes to the annual maintenance of the fence. If one person pays for the fence, then that person might expect the other person to pay for the maintenance.
Sharing the cost also ensures that in the future there is no opportunity for ignoring the responsibility of maintenance. No party can use the excuse of not wanting a fence in the first place to evade the cost of maintenance.
So, if your neighbor contributes towards the fence then they will also have a stake in it. The sense of ownership will make them partially responsible for the future upkeep and maintenance of the fence without any resentment. They will cherish and look after the fence, making sure the fence looks beautiful and stays strong to secure both homes.
Approaching a Neighbor About Splitting the Costs
Now, I am certain you are convinced that installing a fence at a shared price is a great idea and you must consider it. But what is the best possible way to broach the subject of splitting the cost with your neighbor?
When you plan to install a fence, you must discuss it with your neighbor or neighbors as their properties will get impacted. Right at the beginning establish why a fence needs to be installed or an old one needs to be replaced.
While discussing the cost, do not offer to pay for the entire thing. Approach it more as a collective effort so that your neighbor feels involved and a part of the entire process. This way it will be easier to convince them to split the cost.
If you want to know the best possible way to approach your neighbor about installing a new fence, you can read this article where I describe that in detail and also include sample letters for your reference. I also have an article specifically dedicated to approaching your neighbor about splitting the fence costs.
How Should the Fence Cost Be Split?
Once your neighbor has agreed to share the price, how do you split it? Ideally, a 50/50 split works best for both parties, giving everyone equal rights and say on the final decision making. But that’s not always possible.
The reason for installing a new fence plays a huge role in this. Of course, a fence will benefit both homes, but does your neighbor want or need those benefits?
If your neighbor also wants a new fence as badly as you do, then splitting equally will make sense to them. But if you want a fence so that you can get a dog and your neighbor would be happy to carry on without fence, then you are not both equally benefitting.
Sometimes, your neighbor will insist on equal contribution so that they have a say on the fence as it will also run across their property and affect the look of their yard.
How to split also depends on the financial capability of your neighbor. One reason why they do not want any part of it could be because they are not financially able to do so. Also, if you want a specific fence that seems unnecessarily expensive to your neighbor then, you might have to pay for it entirely.
Whatever be the scenario, as the instigator, you might have to pay the maximum cost while your neighbor will contribute little or maybe nothing at all. It is always better to start by asking them to contribute, but understand if they cannot.
How to Pay the Costs When Split
So, you and your neighbor have reached an understanding about splitting the cost. How do you make the payment? Who pays to whom and what can be the possible payment methods?
Unless there’s a dispute to be resolved, there’s no law to tell you what the payment terms should be. So, it’s completely up to you and your neighbor to decide on the payment method that works for both.
Once you receive estimates from several contractors, share them with your neighbor. This way both of you can discuss and choose the vendor who matches your requirement. Based on that estimate you and your neighbor can agree upon the payment specifications.
There are several ways of making the payment. You both can directly pay the contractor your half or the other neighbor, or neighbors, can pay the instigator who can then remunerate the contractor.
Sometimes, a neighbor might insist on paying in installments if it is inconvenient to pay the lump sum.
Principally, the payment terms and conditions are up to you and your neighbor. You can plan it the way it suits all the parties. It’s always best to decide on the payment right at the beginning to eliminate any chance of misunderstanding later.
Handling the Expense of Maintenance
A fence is a long-term investment as well as an expense. It will require periodical maintenance and might also need some repair work in the future. Therefore, it is always better to discuss in detail the present as well as the future cost of the fence with your neighbor.
In the initial stage when you discuss splitting the cost of a fence, you must also discuss future expenses of the fence with your neighbor. Unless otherwise agreed, the expense of keeping the fence in good condition is yours as well as your neighbor’s responsibility.
Have an actual agreement in place, though. You don’t want to be in a situation where the your neighbor is complaining about the state of the fence but it’s their turn to repair it.
Also, keep in mind that the agreement might change if the owner of the property changes. Then, you will have to make a new agreement with the new owner.
Sometimes, in planned communities, the HOA has specific regulations when it comes to sharing the fence and its maintenance. So, before you install a fence, be clear on all these details.
Replacing a Fence Is Trickier
Most neighbors will support your decision of putting up a fence on the boundary line to separate the properties. But convincing them to share the price for replacing an existing fence is a different ball game.
Firstly, you and your neighbor might not be on the same page. Your neighbor might want to repair the fence before thinking about replacing it as repairing will be much cheaper. If that’s the case then persuading your neighbor to chip in for a new one will be very difficult.
If your fence is really old and bears the sign of multiple repairs, discoloration, splintering or cracks, etc., then it might be easier to convince your neighbor. You can also involve an expert who will evaluate the fence and tell why it must be replaced.
If your reason for replacing isn’t functional, then chances are your neighbor might refuse to split the cost of a fence.