What are my rights if a fence was installed on my property?

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What are my rights if a fence was installed on my property?

December of 2003 we moved into our home; we are the first owners. The first homeowners of the house next door installed a split rail fence and an electrical dog fence before we moved in. They sold their house in Nov of 2007. We have decided to install our own post and rail fence. We had a survey done and find out the neighbor’s fence is on our property, from 3 to 7 feet front to back. What are our options? Do we have any recourse? We have been paying taxes with the use of the property.

Asked on June 22, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If it's your land, you may remove structures, including fences, that are on your land. However, before simply tearing it down, talk with your neighbors--not only is it the neighborly thing to do (sorry!) but you may find that they have a survey indicating different boundaries for the land. (Surveys are *not* always 100% accurate.) That means that they have acted in the legitimate belief they were in the right.  You should also look at any boundaries marked on your deed and also at your neighbors'--deeds are public, and you should be able to see them at the county or village clerk office.

If it turns out that there is confusion over where the boundaries are, you and your neighbors should jointly get the land resurveyed or otherwise resolve where the boundary falls. It's much better to do this in a friendly fashion, working together, then to get into an adversarial situtaiton with your neighbor.

At the end of the day, if it turns out the fence is on your land, you could ask your neighbors to either pay you something for the right to have the fence there; or you could possibly sell them that portion of your land outright (which should then also affect taxes); or you could have them remove it. If they refused to remove it, then you would have the right to remove it yourself, and could probably even bring an action against them for the cost to remove the fence.


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