One of the things we’re constantly asked about is how to tell if a fence is yours or your neighbors? That’s a really important thing to know and understand before building or removing a fence, because the answer isn’t always as clear as you’d like it to be – particularly in the case of adjoined fences, but for the most part, it all comes down to property lines. We’ll discuss some of the fence laws in Texas, which are worth taking the time to learn about, but the thing to remember is that it’s always in your best interest to be on good terms with your neighbor.
The quickest and easiest answer to this question is, if it’s on your side of the property line, it belongs to you! If it’s on their side, it belongs to your neighbor. Many fences are actually built on the property line to signify the boundaries of each landowner’s space. In which case, the fence is most likely considered to have joint ownership and you will both have responsibility for the maintenance of the fence. However, it should be known that if you build a fence on the property line without your neighbor’s agreement, they are under no legal obligation to pay for, or maintain the fence. Some neighbors who share a fence come to an agreement on sharing costs to build the fence and which parts of the fence both parties will be responsible for maintaining. If an agreement can be reached, it should be put in writing and signed.
How to Determine Property Lines
This might be the perfect excuse to buy that metal detector you’ve always wanted! When the boundaries of your property were originally being marked, the surveyor placed iron rods at the corners of your property about 6 to 10 inches underground. You can find those pins with your new metal detector, when you do, mark them with flags and run lines of string in between them. These strings will mark the boundaries of your property. You can also take the official route and hire a surveyor to come out and determine the property boundaries with GPS precision. They will even give you a nice report to hold onto in the event that your neighbor or a court judge would like to see it.
Removing a Fence in Texas
There was a law passed in 1981 pertaining to the removal of fences in Texas called The “Removal of Adjoining Fences” Statute. Refer to Subchapter F: sections 143.121-.123.
You are free to remove your fence, so long as you own it and it lies on your property. In the event that you want to remove a jointly owned, common fence, you cannot do so without the agreement of the other party’s permission.
If you want to remove a fence that you own, but also happens to be connected to a fence owned by your neighbor, you must either have their agreement to do so or present your plans to them in writing 6 months prior to the date you take action in removing the fence.
If your neighbor owns a fence that connects to a fence that you own, you can legally require them to disconnect their fence from yours, but you must let them know in writing and give them 6 months to do so.
What to Consider Before Building a Fence
Building a fence may have certain requirements that might take you by surprise, so it’s best to find out before you finalize anything. For instance, you may have to clear some brush on your property and possibly your neighbor’s property. If preparing a way for a fence requires you to cross the boundary lines of your neighbor’s property, you must have permission or you will be trespassing according to the law.
If you are subject to an HOA, check to see if they have any particular requirements that you should be aware of, such as which side the “ugly side” of the fence faces. There are some municipalities that require the “good side” of the fence to face outward towards the public, partly because it’s more pleasant for pedestrians to look at, but it also keeps intruders from climbing the fence. There is also a style to consider called the “Good Neighbor” fence, which alternates the “good” and “ugly” sides every 8 feet.
Always Discuss Your Plans With Your Neighbor
The law is good to know, but the hope is that you never encounter a situation that requires it to be enforced. It’s always in your best interest, both personally and legally, for you and your neighbor to have a firm understanding and agreement on who owns the fence and who is responsible for maintaining it. A great resource for Texas fence laws is Five Strands: a Landowner’s Guide to Fence Law in Texas and as it so eloquently states, “The law will never substitute for an understanding between two neighbors over a cup of coffee”.