Maintaining a harmonious and neighborly relationship requires adjoining landowners to adhere to several duties. These duties range from the duty not to encroach, the duty to maintain adjoining trees, and the topic of this blog which is the duty of fence maintenance.
The maintenance of the fence that separates your property from your neighbor is regulated by statute. California Civil Code Section 841 provides, “[a]djoining landowners shall share equally in the responsibility for maintaining the boundaries and monuments between them.” This part of the code is known as the Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013. Adjoining under the Act is defined as “contiguous to or in contact with.” (Civ. Code § 841(c)(2).)
Adjoining landowners are equally responsible for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence. (Civ Code § 841(b).) To be released from this duty the law requires the neighboring landowners to enter into a written agreement. (Id.)
So how do you proceed when it comes to sharing the costs of the fence maintenance? The Act provides the answer. Civil Code § 841 requires you to give your affected neighbors 30 days’ prior written notice and include the following therein:
The recipient can challenge the presumption that he or she must equally share in the fence maintenance, but the burden is on the challenger through a preponderance of evidence to demonstrate that equal responsibility would be unjust. Among other grounds, the challenger can object to the presumption when the fence mostly suits the other landowner’s “personal aesthetic, architectural, or other preferences” (See Civ. Code § 841(b)(3)(D)(ii); See Haehlen v. Wilson (1936) 11 Cal.App.2d 437, 441 [Plaintiffs also claim the “wall” created an ugly and untidy appearance . . . In the absence of some legislative action, the courts cannot set up esthetic standards to which builders must conform].) If you are having issues regarding the maintenance of a neighboring fence, or any other dispute involving your neighbors, we invite you to contact us today.