When building a fence on your property, there are many factors to consider, from the materials you’ll use to which contractor to choose for the installation. But some laws give specific requirements for fence building that you’ll need to follow before and during your installation.
Among these laws, one of the most important is the California Good Neighbor Fence Law. It can be challenging to understand what exactly laws like this mean.
Here is a closer look at California’s Good Neighbor Fence Law that can give you the confidence and knowledge to move forward with your fence installation.
Basic Fence Laws in California
California’s Building Code requires a permit before building fences above six feet tall. The only exception is if the top two feet of the fence are made from barbed wire, but that’s not a common consideration for most homeowners.
Front yard fences have a maximum height of 42 inches, while backyard fences can climb up to 72 inches.
These numbers change if you share the fence with your neighbor. A shared fence must be 62 inches tall at a minimum — not maximum — and free from relatively large gaps.
Also, if you’re a California homeowner with a pool deeper than 18 inches, you’ll need to install a fence around it. The fence should have a self-closing, self-latching gate with release mechanisms that must be placed at least 54 inches from the ground.
That’s a lot of numbers, but these rules account for many of the California law basics. Having them to reference can be helpful in understanding the Good Neighbor Fence Law in California and assist you in staying compliant across the board.
An Overview of the Good Neighbor Fence Law in California
This law goes into more detail about stipulations for shared fences between neighbors. Part of California Civil Code 841, the outline provides basic etiquette for parties on each side to uphold.
The law states that any plans for maintenance, replacements, or other work of a shared fence must be communicated to both parties at least 30 days in advance. In California, adjoining landowners share responsibility for fence maintenance, so keeping your neighbor in the loop when you want to plan anything is crucial.
The easiest way to do this is to send them a letter describing what work you’re scheduling and why it’s necessary. This letter even has a name — a good neighbor fence letter. They’re required under this law, so when you send one, don’t forget to include the following:
- Information about the problem and why it needs fixing
- The proposed solution to the problem
- How long the repairs or replacement will take to complete
- Your signature and the date, as well as space for their signature
- Ensure all involved parties receive your letter and you’ve done your part to uphold the law!
Common Questions Regarding California Fence Laws
Following proper protocol isn’t just neighborly; it’s essential under the California Good Neighbor Fence Act. Once you understand how California sees fence ownership, the law makes a lot of sense. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without its gray areas that require some clarification for homeowners.
One of the most common questions is about your insurance’s role in all of this. Most insurance plans cover fences under “other structures,” meaning they provide 10% of a dwelling’s coverage amount.
With shared fences, insurance companies typically only pay for your portion. That means you’ll need another written document with all property owners agreeing on splitting the responsibility into percentages and costs.
Some scenarios render you exempt from sharing fence costs. If you can’t afford to pay your share due to financial hardship, or if you can prove the costs to be unreasonable, you may be exempt from payment.
You can also make a case if the neighboring fence has significantly less benefit for your property, which can alleviate you of any responsibilities for the cost of the repairs or replacement.
The Pros and Cons of Shared Fences
Shared fences can be a confrontational topic regarding property boundaries and neighborly relationships. While the California Good Neighbor Fence Law provides a regulatory framework for these installations, it’s worth understanding the advantages and disadvantages that come with a shared fence.
The Pros of Shared Fences
- Shared Costs: One of the most appealing benefits of shared fences is the division of costs. Building or maintaining a fence can be a significant investment, and having a neighbor to share that expense can lighten the financial burden.
- Enhanced Property Appeal: A uniform fence along property lines often enhances the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood, providing a neat and orderly appearance. This can potentially boost property values, benefitting both you and your neighbor.
- Strengthened Neighbor Relations: Coordinating a shared fence project can foster stronger relations between neighbors. Cooperation and mutual respect are often enhanced when parties work together towards a common goal.
- Increased Privacy and Security: Shared fences demarcate clear boundaries between properties, offering increased privacy. They also act as a deterrent for intruders, offering an added layer of security.
The Cons of Shared Fences
- Disputes Over Costs and Maintenance: While shared costs can be a pro, it can quickly turn into a con if one neighbor feels they’re bearing an unfair share of the costs. This can extend to disputes over maintenance responsibilities and costs for repairs down the line.
- Style and Design Conflicts: Neighbors may not agree on the type, style, or color of the fence. One might prefer a precast concrete fence for durability, while the other might want a wooden fence for a rustic look.
- Boundary Disagreements: There may be disagreements on the exact property line, which can lead to disputes. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of property boundaries before construction.
- Potential for Damage: If a shared fence is damaged, determining responsibility can be complicated. This can lead to tension or conflict between neighbors.
Navigating the world of shared fences doesn’t have to be stressful. The key is open and clear communication with your neighbor throughout the process. Understanding the laws surrounding shared fences, such as the California Good Neighbor Fence Law, will also give you a strong foundation.
Steer Clear of Legal Trouble
Installing a fence on your property can improve your home’s aesthetics, enhance privacy, and increase security. However, this endeavor can turn complicated if you inadvertently run afoul of local laws and regulations. Here are some tips to help you avoid legal issues during fence installation:
1. Know Your Property Lines
Before installing a fence, you must know the precise boundaries of your property. A misplaced fence can lead to legal disputes and the costly task of relocating the fence. If you’re unsure about your property lines, consider hiring a surveyor to accurately determine the boundaries.
2. Understand Local Laws and Ordinances
Fence regulations can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. They can dictate everything from fence height and style to the materials used. For example, certain localities have specific rules for front yard fences or fences near roads to ensure visibility for drivers. Familiarize yourself with these laws to avoid non-compliance issues.
3. Obtain Necessary Permits
If your fence project requires a permit, ensure you obtain it before the work begins. Skipping this step can lead to penalties, fines, and the removal of the installed fence. Check with your local building department or homeowners’ association to find out what permits are needed.
4. Adhere to the Good Neighbor Fence Law
If you share a boundary with a neighbor, you must adhere to the California Good Neighbor Fence Law. This law requires shared responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence. Always communicate your plans with your neighbors before starting any work on a shared fence.
5. Hire a Reputable Contractor
Choose a reputable fence contractor who understands local laws and codes and can ensure compliance. An experienced contractor like American Precast Fences can guide you through the legalities, handle permit applications, and execute a professional installation that meets all legal requirements.
6. Handle Disputes Responsibly
If a dispute arises with your neighbor, handle it responsibly. Try to communicate and resolve the issue amicably. If that fails, consider mediation before taking legal action.
Benefit from Understanding California Law Regarding Fences
Investing some time in researching your local fence laws can protect you from potential delays or other issues when installing your fence. It can also lead to more collaborative efforts, allowing you to communicate more openly about mutually beneficial options with your neighbor.
Have you and your neighbor come to an agreement? Then it’s time to start building property fencing with the experienced professionals at American Precast Fences. Contact us today to learn more about the regulations and get a free estimate for your project!