Q: Is it legal for the neighbor to remove a fence on our shared property line without our consent?
Our joint fence was completely removed, and they have embarked on a 5 week process to construct a retaining wall and new fence. We were given no written plan or written notice. They have excavated on our property, and they are trying to get us to pay part of their project.
A: If both landowners paid to install a fence directly on a property line in the past, then yes, they need your permission to remove or replace the fence. Many fences are not built on a property line, but are instead just on one property or the other.
If you have had your land surveyed, you may be able to determine your exact property line. You or your neighbor are free to build new fences without permission as long as neither the fence nor any construction or excavation encroaches on the other's property.
Fences are a common property dispute, and can have long term effects. If a fence encroaches significantly on someone else's land for many years, this can actually become the new legal property line in some cases. This unplanned change in property line is unlikely in a subdivision where property descriptions on deeds simply state "Lot 23 in the NewHaven Subdivision Plat A".
If the new fence won't look bad, it may be in your best interest to allow it to be built or cooperate as necessary just to keep peace between neighbors. I have had clients who ended up moving after disputes became so hot no one was happy. You are not required to pay for the fence, and you have an argument that you wanted the old fence, so your neighbor's destruction of the old fence requires them to pay for a replacement. (This argument is weaker if the old fence was falling apart.)
This generic information does not create a lawyer-client relationship. I have not been given enough information to give you advice on which to rely.
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