December 20th, 2012
The latest storms blew down your fence, and your neighbor propped it up and said it was “fine.” Now what do you do?
If the fence really needs repairing, you’re within your rights to have it repaired, and per the law, you share the cost equally with your neighbor for the sections that are between your homes. But the law doesn’t have to live next to your neighbor.
No one likes being told what to do, nor do they like feeling backed into a corner. So the best way to start is in a neutral place. If that’s not possible, bring over a plate of cookies and say you want to talk about the fence, and you want to hear their thoughts first. Then let them talk asking questions periodically to get more information. Don’t play Perry Mason, though.
It could be that your neighbor doesn’t feel strongly about saving the fence, but rather, they wanted to avoid a hassle of trying to find someone to repair it. So if you offer to get the three estimates, they may be happy to just write a check.
If they don’t have the money to invest, you may have to get creative. You could offer to set up a payment plan, but this may cause some rough feelings, and your neighbor may start to avoid you. Perhaps you could do a trade of some skills. If your neighbor is a plumber, negotiate a certain number of hours she could provide you with in exchange for your covering the cost of the fence. In addition, look into your future plans. If you have three dogs and were going on a two week trip to Italy, have your neighbor watch the dogs instead of boarding them. Clearly spell out what you expect such as number of walks per day.
If you don’t have much money, look into the minimal amount to repair the fence rather then replacing. Maybe you only have to replace one post that snapped, and the rest of the fence can be kept. In this case, the cost to split will be a lot less, and hopefully your neighbor will be more forthcoming with their share.
Your best bet is to review your fences now before anything happens, and talk with your neighbors about the eventuality of replacing the fences if they are starting to get worn. When everyone is in agreement, it makes the process far easier.