While the occurrence of a shared fence is relatively rare, there are certain housing developments where two property owners are responsible for a fence separating their properties. Thankfully, in these cases, a Homeowner's Association can usually assist in helping neighbours replace a common fence. When this is not the case, the neighbour that wants to replace the shared fence needs to engage in some smart preparation and negotiation with the other fence owner.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Research the legal background of the fence and know where you stand early in the process. Seek advice from an authority figure, such as a city zoning officer. Examine the land records and have your lot lines surveyed. It could be that the fence isn't "shared" at all and that one of you is the true owner. Property myths like this occur frequently.
Build a case against the old fence. Take photographs of the fence and craft a logical argument for why it should be replaced at this time. Create a fact-based report for your neighbour to read and consider.
Determine the kind of fence you would like to install. Choose several designs based on your needs, but consider the needs of your neighbour. It is critical that you provide them with a choice in designs and budgets. Research all the prices and costs associated with each fence design.
Create a printed presentation of these fencing choices, including colour photographs. Make the presentation easy to understand. Be frank and factual.
Pay a visit to your neighbour, armed with your printed materials. Don't attempt to verbally sell the idea now. Reassure her that you want to work with her so her interests are protected. Offer the materials for study at her convenience. Before you end this visit, set a date a week to 10 days from now to talk about your proposal in detail.
Attend the discussion meeting. Take a written proposal with you outlining any concessions you are willing to make. Include two copies of an agreement that the two of you can sign at the end of the meeting. Leave blanks in the agreement to fill in with details, once you verbally agree to specifications and conditions. Sign the agreement in the presence of a Notary Public, if possible.
Remain calm and businesslike if this meeting does not go as planned. Avoid displays of anger and making any harsh statements. Agree to talk again in a few days. Continue with these negotiations until you succeed or until it is clear no agreement is possible.
Work in partnership with your neighbour to start the fence replacement project and monitor its progress. Set a construction schedule together. Agree how you will handle financial matters. Jointly hire the contractors or workers. If this is a DIY project, shop for the materials together. Consult closely with the neighbour and involve her in the process even if you are doing the work. Show every kindness and consideration to your neighbour, from start to finish. Resolve any problems with humour and generosity.
Tips and warnings
- Safety considerations will usually help support your case. Purely aesthetic arguments are generally weak. Offers to provide help with financing or to shoulder more than half the cost of the project may also help sweeten the deal.
- Talk with an attorney only as the last resort. Consult with a local mediation expert for help resolving problems first. Resorting to litigation will be costly and will permanently destroy the relationship between you and your neighbour. Decide ultimately whether your position on the fence is worth this cost.
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