What to do if a fence was already on our property when we the house and now, 15 years later, our neighbor turned us in for not having a permit?

UPDATED: Mar 11, 2016

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What to do if a fence was already on our property when we the house and now, 15 years later, our neighbor turned us in for not having a permit?

We bought a house 7 years ago and it has a privacy fence in back yard. The city just left us a summons that it was built with no permit. How does that make me

responsible? We didn’t put it up.

Asked on March 11, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

What the city did is undoubtedly unfair--but it is legal. Zoning laws, building code laws, and health code laws (which can affect property, though not likely in this case) are all obligations imposed on the current property owner: a property owner has to insure compliance with them, regardless of who built or renovated the property or structure in question, or when. We've had to deal with the same thing in our state (NJ), in that we had to modify a non-compliant fence to comply--a prior homeowner had built the fence. This is, regretably, something homeowners have to deal with; you will have to do what it takes to get the permit and bring the fence into compliance.

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