Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

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Latest post 04-18-2007 12:03 PM by Drew. 6 replies.
  • 04-16-2007 2:20 PM

    • Glygil
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    • Joined on 04-16-2007
    • Posts 8

    Question [=?] Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    I have a question re: rights and obligations for proceeding with replacement of a shared fence when one neighbor is demanding that the work be done solely by him at a price to me that is much higher than other quotes. This may be long-winded but I want to make sure I have presented the relevant facts:

    My neighbor and I share a fence which runs right along the property line between our backyards. I have had a recent survey done and there are markers in place which confirm this. The fence is ancient (predates both of us as property owners) and has become quite dilapidated. We both own dogs so it's important to have proper fencing in place.

    Recently, the neighbor came to my door to discuss the replacement of this fence. I was happy to hear from him, as I had planned to contact him about it anyway. He then told me that he is a general contractor and could do it at cost, with us splitting this amount 50/50. He claimed this would save us both money as it would be below the retail price to hire an outside company to do it. I told him to provide me with a quote and what he proposed. I also indicated that I would like the new fence to match existing fences that run along the other sides.

    A few weeks later, he came back with a number that seemed, well, suprisingly high for something that was supposed to be "at cost". He did not provide a quote (e.g. materials, labor) to show how he arrived at that number. He claimed to have received estimates from other companies that were about the same amount of money, but did not provide these estimates or even company names. He also got very vague when I asked him how his "at cost" price came in at the same amount as the estimates he received for full price.

    I checked with our landscape architect/contractor (who isn't cheap) and his retail price for doing this job was about 40% less that my neighbor's supposed "at cost" price. I contacted the neighbor and told him the good news that we could have the job done for substantially less, by a very reputable and well-known high-end company. As the quote my neighbor had given me was supposed to be his out-of-pocket cost, we would both presumably save money by contracting with this landscaper and splitting this lower price 50/50.

    Things went south from there. My neighbor asserted that his price is his price, and he will not agree to work with or pay any other contractors for this job. He also refuses to cooperate with the permit dep't. He stated that he will not agree to replacement of this fence by anyone other than him, for any price other than what he's quoted, under his conditions. If I don't pay him his price, I will have to "wait and see what happens" to the old fence.

    At this point I told him that I did not understand his reasoning, but if this is his bottom line he should provide me with a written contract/proposal outlining the scope of work, price, terms, etc. and I will review it. (I checked with the state and they confirmed that I am entitled to get something in writing, whether I'm "just a neighbor" or not.) I also asked for his contractor's license number. He has not responded since.

    So now I am left with a shared fence that needs to be replaced sooner rather than later, with a neighbor who will only cooperate if I pay him a very high price without a written contract. We do need to proceed with this project soon as it is a hazard, but what are my rights and options at this point? Suggestions? Thanks for reading.
  • 04-16-2007 4:46 PM In reply to

    re: Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    Other than talking with local city-county folks about any ordinances regarding boundary fences, I'd talk with a local real estate attorney.

    It might be easier to just put up a new fence inside your property line if that's possible.

  • 04-17-2007 12:07 AM In reply to

    re: Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    Unfortunately, it sounds like you have an unreasonable neighbor. You’re stuck. I doubt you can force him to pay half if you build the fence. Nor could he force you. If you were in a Homeowner’s association, there could be rules there to help you. So if your neighbor refuses to cooperate, your best recourse is to put up the fence where you want it, at your cost. If it were me, I’d put up a 6 foot board fence so I wouldn’t have to see him any further. Be aware, if your state has “good neighbor” fence laws, you’ll may need to put up the “good looking” side facing him, so that the fence can always be claimed as yours. I’d put up the fence just inches inside the property line, and I’d leave the old fence standing on his side.
  • 04-17-2007 1:06 PM In reply to

    • Glygil
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    • Joined on 04-16-2007
    • Posts 8

    re: Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    Yes, I am trying to get info from the county. Unfortunately I'm getting bounced around to different departments, but I will persist. I have also left a message with our property insurance people to discuss the matter, specifically from a liability and remediation viewpoint. But I may end up in an attorney's office.

    I would like to just forget this guy and put a new fence inside my line, but because of the rot, vines, and termite infestation on the old fence, the fence people I've spoken with don't want to put a new fence in any proximity to the old one. So I'm back to square one with getting this neighbor to agree to have the old one removed.

    New question: if I took the old fence down (with neighbor's agreement) and put the new fence inside my line, the other fences that connected to this old fence on the neighbor's side will not longer connect to anything. There will be a gap. Is that my problem?

    Thanks very much for your response and input. Much appreciated.
  • 04-17-2007 1:10 PM In reply to

    • Glygil
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 04-16-2007
    • Posts 8

    re: Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    Nope, there's no homeowner's association here. I would be happy to put a new fence inside my line at my cost, but there may even be issues with doing that, as outlined in my reply to the previous person. The type of fence I would construct looks the same from either side, so I wouldn't have to worry about the neighbor's view.

    Thanks very much for your response and input!
  • 04-17-2007 10:45 PM In reply to

    re: Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    I don’t think so. Unless there is a law or ordinance which mandates you to have a fence. If you have livestock, it is your responsibility to keep them fenced in. If you have a dog, it is your responsibility to keep it fenced in. If you don’t mind that small rodents can go through your “gap”, I see no problem.

    If your neighbor has a dog, it is his responsibility to keep his dog fenced in. If you build your fence inside your property line, you can prevent your neighbor from attaching to your fence.
  • 04-18-2007 12:03 PM In reply to

    • Drew
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 49,585

    re: Replacement of Shared Fence (California)

    Laymans take:

    Some of this fence stuff can be daunting. And local rules and case laws run both ways---

    Me, I'd be tempted to wait him out until the fence falls over--if I put up a nice new one say 6" inside my line he wins by default?

    There is some CA case law which suggest you can put up an unattractive fence facing his way but you cannot make it deliberately unattractive--but whygo that route.

    But what troubles me is you need to check out CA state and any local laws as to mandatory shared costs of boundary fences--such laws appear to be alive and well in parts of CA--and in some sense the bigger bully may win if you are not careful --but I would hope that if you DOCUEMENT and propose say a $2000 fence and your neighbor goes ahead with a $6000 fence done by his own selfserving folks that your maximum liability is 1/2 of the adaquate proposed fence or $1000 and NOT 1/2 of his gold plated deal! But I'd docuement that $2000 fence and then sit back! You do NOT need to educate the enemy! And I would NOT. (Of course If you had money to burn you might propose a $50,000 diamond studded fence and sue him for 1/2 but I think that would be foolish and hard to sustain.)

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