Do Fences Really Make the Best Neighbors?

The new vinyl fence you picked out at the super-store will provide you with privacy and keep your children safe as they play in the backyard, right?  While fences are not a bad thing, their installation is extremely important.  An improperly installed fence can have serious issues if, and when, you go to sell your house.  It can also present an issue when you are purchasing a house with a fence (or more than one).


Whose fence is it? 

Typically, the “good side” of the fence is facing away from the home of the owner.  Ownership may also be determined by who paid for and installed the fence, or whose name the fence permit was issued in.

Is it permitted?

Locally, most municipalities require permits for fences, or certain types of fences.  The Monroe County Bar Association standard contract for residential real estate has a section on it to request that the seller shall provide permits for fences on the property.

Does it create a title issue?

Where the fence is installed can create title issues for both the buyer and the seller, depending on when the fence was installed. Depending on when the fence was installed, local title standards indicate that a fence, installed or owned by your neighbors that is more than one foot on your property is an objection on a title report.  This can delay the closing by requiring the attorneys to use “best efforts” to obtain signatures from your neighbors, or soon to be neighbors, to clarify what the actual boundary line is. 

If your fence encroaches onto your neighbor’s land by more than one foot, the issue can be cured via an affidavit indicating that you are not claiming to own that land.

How can you prevent this issue?

If you are having a fence installed, demand that your installer use the survey you received when you purchased the house and require them to install the fence directly on the property line.  You could also negotiate with them that they will come back and fix it if a new survey shows that it is not on the line.

Ensure that your neighbor’s fence is installed on the property line or on their property, exclusively.