There’s a line from a Robert Frost poem, “good fences make good neighbors.” Whether or not that’s true, you may be considering building a fence on your property. If you’re lucky, at least one neighbor would like a fence, too, and is willing to share the cost of the shared fence. Is it a good idea to work with your neighbor to build a boundary fence?
First of all, you should know that, under Florida law, your neighbors have no obligation to share the cost of a boundary fence. If they do agree to join in the project, only contract law requires them to follow through. So, if you’re going to be involved in a shared building project, you should create a written contract.
Your contract should include:
- A clear description of the lands and the proposed location of the fence — ideally, have the legal boundary identified by a land surveyor
- A list of all the responsibilities of each party — this should include a cost estimate for building the fence, how the costs will be divided, what will happen if the costs go up, and each party’s responsibility for maintaining the fence
- The names and signatures of the parties
- The date on which they signed the contract
- At least two independent witnesses and a notary
To ensure that your contract is enforceable, you should have an attorney negotiate, draft or review it.
Can you build a fence that your neighbors object to?
Generally, you have no legal obligation to get your neighbors’ approval for a boundary fence, as long as the fence does not encroach upon your neighbors’ land. However, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your neighbors so you can deal with any objections ahead of time.
That said, some fences can be considered nuisances. For example, if your fence will hinder the use of a neighbor’s alley, it could be considered a nuisance. “Spite fences” — those built with no purpose but to annoy — can also be found to be nuisances.
If your neighbors think your fence is a nuisance, they could file a lawsuit. If you were to lose the lawsuit, you could be forced to pay your neighbors damages — or even be required to modify or remove the fence.
If you have questions about your property rights before any project, check with a real estate lawyer.