Dear PoP – Chain-link fencing question

Photo by PoPville flickr user hellomarkers!

“Dear PoP,

In my backyard, I have chain-link fencing on both sides, sharing the fences with my neighbors. I’d like to put up a more substantial fence, but I don’t know who owns the fences. Do I own one and a neighbor another? Or do we both have to agree if we want to modify the fencing? I’m sure this is a common issue in our part of town, so I thought I’d throw it out there to you.”

We discussed a related fencing issue back in October. I’d think that you could just go up to your neighbor and say, “hey I’d like to put up a new fence, would you mind?”. If you are planning on paying for it I would be surprised if there was a problem. But for the record does anyone know the exact legal ruling here?

10 Comment

  • You can put up any fence you want on your side of a property provided you have a permit. There is a permitting process. Usually neighbors offer to pay for part of fences if they can agree on a stlye. Then you can put the fence right on the property line. My neighbor tried to get the previous owner of my house to pay for the fence with no luck. My other neighbor is 85 years old and retired. I have no intention of asking her to pay, but I’ll get her blessing before I start work.

    From DCRA:

    Building Postcard Permit

    A building postcard permit is required for the following work:

    * Erecting a fence up to a height of 7 feet (2.13 meters) above grade, entirely on private property and behind the building restriction line.

  • If you don’t have one already within your closing docs when you bought your property, commission a current boundary survey of your property by a licensed local surveyor.

  • dude, just ask you neighbor if you can replace the fence. assuming the existing chain link fence is old and out of shape, i doubt they’ll mind.

  • Also, I think if the fence is on the outside of the poles the fence could be yours. In any case, just ask your neighbor that you want to replace the fence, if they unreasonable and refuse just put your own in your side of the fence.

  • ah

    If the fence is truly in the property line it’s likely a “shared fence” and you can’t just tear it out without the neighbor’s permission. To be safe, I’d just ask and get something in writing. If he’s a jerk, then build your fence inside the other one or get a survey to determine whether it is in fact shared.

  • This reduces his property’s area, its very minimal, but it is losing land and after a few years, the neighbor can claim that land thats on his side of the fence.

  • We actually did this a few years back. We had to go to DCRA, get a permit, and then also draw a “plat” which showed where the fence would be on our property, etc. You can pay someone to do all this or you can do it yourself – I actually did and it wasn’t hard at all.

    In my recollection, DCRA does require you to get sign-off on paper from your neighbors if the fence will touch their property. We couldn’t get one of our neighbors to agree so we just placed the fence about 6 inches from our property line (our neighbor’s was a rental home at the time), so there is still old chain link on the other side of our fence but it doesn’t seem to bother anybody.

  • Do you need a permit to replace an existing fence (assuming it’s not significantly higher)?

  • I’m late to this conversation, but note there are some good suggestions. One response suggest to check your closing docs from the purchase of the property which should have included a survey or location drawing. If you don’t have a copy, contact the settlement company that facilitated the purchase and or look at who performed the survey on the Settlement Statement and contact them directly. The location drawing should show whose fence it is, but such location drawings have a +/- of 1-3′, so it’s still a good idea to ask the neighbor what they believe/know. You want to avoid building a fence on the neighbors property, which can cause future problems when you or your neighbor sell. Sounds like the rest was already covered.

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