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What are my obligations under the Good Neighbor Fence Law?

In California, landowners with plans on erecting a fence must take certain steps to properly notify their neighbors. Not only is this good etiquette, it is the law; according to the Good Neighbor Fence Law, you must notify your neighbor of your intentions prior to any work taking place. The costs of the fence are shared in many situations, but not all. Here are some of the basics regarding this law so you can prevent disputes from occurring. 

Notice must be provided 30 days before work begins 

Prior notice is crucial when erecting fencing on your property. This notice gives you neighbor ample time to dispute the fence or discuss any concerns or questions he or she may have. When providing notice, you are obligated to share certain information. First, you must make your neighbor aware of the law itself by explaining, unless another arrangement has been agreed to, it is presumed that both parties benefit from the fence, so both parties should share in the cost. Exceptions to this rule will be explained below. 

Next, you must include key information about the fence project itself. This includes the reason why you are building a fence, i.e. the problem you are hoping to address by erecting the fence. You must also provide estimated costs for fence building, how these costs should be divided, and how long you believe the fence building will actually take, according to your best estimate. 

Situations where fencing costs are not shared 

The primary takeaway from this law is that a fence should be mutually beneficial to both neighbors. If this is not the case, meaning one neighbor’s benefit is substantially greater than the other, the other neighbor may not be obligated to share in costs. Also, if the neighbor is unable to share in his cost due to financial hardship, it is like that the court would find that costs do not need to be shared. Other exceptions include fences being erected for aesthetic reasons, meaning they address no problem. In this case, it is likely that the majority of the costs would fall on you.