California's Good Neighbor Fence

Andrea Griffith
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
California's Good Neighbor Fence

Good fences make good neighbors and good communication makes even better neighbors.

I manage a lot of rental properties so it's not surprising that I get a lot of calls from tenants when something is broken. Last night brought a huge storm through our area and we received several calls about fences that were blown down.

Here's what you need to know before you repair your fence:
  1. Check your homeowner's insurance. Is the fence covered? If so, then you'll have no choice but to wait for their adjuster to go out and take a look.
  2. Talk to your neighbor if the fence is shared. California is very clear on shared fences. The law basically says that both owners are mutually responsible for common fences.
  3. Get a quote.
  4. If you and your neighbor agree to price and terms up front, then there's no issue. However, what if your neighbor refuses to pay their share or won't agree on the fence details - or worse - doesn't want a new fence put up at all? Then you need to send them a letter. Do NOT start work on the fence until you send the letter which must be sent at least 30 days before work starts. The letter must include:
  • A description of the problem with the fence
  • Your proposed solution for addressing the problem
  • The estimated costs for fixing the problem
  • Your proposal for how to split the costs
  • Your proposal for the timeline for getting the problem fixed
Sometimes one neighbor might benefit more from the fence than the other neighbor. Or one neighbor wants a "better" fence than what the other neighbor might consider "reasonable". In those cases, the first neighbor may be required to pay for a larger share of the cost.

In the end, good communication is key. Talk to your neighbor to work things out. After all, that's what "being neighborly" is all about.

Example of a Fence Letter:
Dear Neighbor,
Quite a storm we had last week! Too bad it blew down our common fence. I got a quote from ABC Fence Co to install a new fence and have included it with this letter. As you can see, the cost is $XXX. I suggest we split the cost between us. The company would like to start next month on (date). Please let me know by Saturday it this works for you or if you are planning on getting your own quotes. If I don't hear back, I will assume we can go ahead with the fence.
Your Neighbor