All My Neighbors Use My Fence, Now Upset My Son Broke Our Fence

I’ve been meaning to ask opinions on this for awhile. I’m sure similar things have come up. It just got a little more timely.

I live in a typical (I think) suburban neighborhood in Columbus, OH. It is technically in the city. I have a rectangular yard bordered by parts of 6 other yards.

When I moved into the house (my wife already lived here), we had the only fenced yard in our neighborhood. Since that time, 4 of our neighbors have built partial fences that use part of our fence as an entire side or back of their fence. They built off of ours.

Our next door neighbor uses our fence for 1/4 of their fence and depends on it to keep their dogs in. FWIW, I have no dogs or outside pets.

The previous owner of the house next door not only built off our fence, but either painted or paid someone to paint the shared side of my fence but also my entry gate and portion of fence that has nothing to do with his yard. In addition his fence builder built off of the corner in a crooked/non-level way that caused my gate to fail (I replaced it in a 1/2@ss way and don’t really care).

I and my entire family are introverted and have social anxiety. My general approach is to keep peace and avoid conflict and interaction because it harms my health and business/ability to make a living/take care of my kids, etc. That said, I have no problem being assertive and especially sticking up for my kids. I’m just saying that I don’t waste energy on conflicts that cost more than they are worth. The previous neighbor also had done helpful things like clear our driveway with his snow blower, repaired parts of the fence damaged and windstorms, etc. He was “neighborly” so I didn’t fight with him over things that seemed petty.

He sold his house a couple years ago. The neighbors that moved in have been difficult to deal with because our daughter plays with their kids but our son has been in fights with their kids and there have been various disputes. So it’s tricky. They also have one parent who is very friendly and we have taken their kids places.

Recently my wife and son and I have talked about the fence. It’s old and I frequently will replace 1 board at a time. A fence board is $1.48. A new fence is a few grand. I can’t afford it, and don’t even care about having a fence. We have no dogs or anything. So my wife has talked about just tearing it down and how our neighbors shouldn’t just be able to use our fence (I agree on this point).

Today my son was riding his bike in laps around our back yard and crashed into the fence. He came in crying, asking me to save him from the neighbor. I went out there and put the fence back together as best I could. Basically, one of the 2 horizontal wood pieces (not sure terminology, those pieces that go horizontally from post to post and the boards are nailed to) snapped. That was the only thing that broke. all the boards were fine, posts were fine. I just kinda snapped it back into position, and the fence is together. Thought that 1 broken board should be replaced, I suppose. Right now the broke pieces are just kinda sitting together.

The neighbor lady kept saying “we have dogs. we can’t just not have a fence.” I avoided saying anything because I try to avoid getting angry and snapping at people. I just sorta muttered something about replacing that one piece of wood and went back in to make sure my son was OK.

Now my wife is saying “I hope they don’t think that’s their fence and pay someone to fix it and then ask us to pay for it.”

So, I don’t know about that. But I can’t imagine there is any way all these neighbors are entitled to use our fence? Or are they? FWIW, I believe they all were professionally built. I find it bizarre that professional fence builders would build 2/3-3/4 of a fence and then attach it to a neighbor as standard practice.

Honestly, I’d prefer to avoid any headaches beyond keeping peace and not getting screwed by people. The past few years have been a nightmare for my family.

First things first - are there property line markers? A survey? Some way to formally demonstrate which fence portion is on which property?

Did you give permission for your neighbors to attach their fence portions to your fence? Did you make an agreement in writing?

They’re definitely not entitled to use your fence. Tear it down or ask them to pay to repair it. You have no obligation to maintain a fence for someone else’s benefit.

I’m waiting for the pros to comment on this, but IMHO, you want to tear down the fence, send all the neighbors a formal letter and tell them “Hey, this is our fence we paid for and we maintained it. We don’t want to bother with that anymore, so in xx number of days, we’re going to remove it. If you’re depending on this fence for any reason you need to make plans to deal with this. If you want to put up a fence, feel free to do so but make sure it’s on your side of the property line.” It would be a nice touch if you included any documentation that you paid for your fence.

I have property line issues, I’m waiting to see what people say.

People will try to bully you into maintaining the fence, you might want to practice saying “No, we’re not going to maintain it, it’s going down. You need to solve your fencing problem on your own.”

BTW, in my area, it’s considered polite to ask to link up to a fence. After reading may shared fence stories, I think the first thing you need to be sure about is where your property line is.

  1. I have no idea. I moved in here and we had a fence. No one else did. I don’t see anything physically indicating property lines. I imagine people had surveys when they bought properties. I didn’t because my wife already lived here.

  2. I have never spoken to most of our neighbors. They certainly didn’t ask me anything. As far as the next door neighbor in question, one morning I woke up and they had a fence and my gate had been painted to match their roof.

That’s what I would think, but it seems a lot of people have other ideas. So it helps to bounce things off others who at least have some idea about anything that makes sense.

FWIW, I’m not too inclined to just tear it down. I think part of that was thinking out of spite. I just am not too interested in investing much time or money maintaining it, and certainly not to buy a new one for the benefit of others.

I share a fence with a neighbor. His is an old 3’ chain link fence that was 1/4 of my backyard fence. I got a new dog who figured out quickly that he could easily clear 3’, so the fence was no longer suitable for my yard.

I went to my neighbor’s house and said “Hey I need to replace your 3’ fence with something more suitable. I’m going to pay to have a 5’ fence installed. Can they rip your fence down?” He said ok, and he signed the requisite paperwork (one was a form for the city that said I could erect a fence on his property and the other was a letter I wrote on his behalf saying I could have his fence ripped down) and we were off.

Perhaps you need to propose to your neighbor that you no longer can maintain your fence to their standards so they should have it replaced with something at their own cost, for the safety of their dogs.

They can’t mess with your fence without your approval, as far as I know.

Dude, no offense, but you need to see a professional about your social anxiety. Painting your property is a line which they should not have been allowed to cross, and you should not have tolerated no matter how much you have problems with ‘issues’.

If you cannot stand to talk to them, then send a letter. Honest to God, you’re making things worse for yourself if you just let this drag on. What will make you finally speak up? When they tear down the fence and put a new one up inside your property line?

I have been in treatment for social anxiety for 30 years. No offense, but I am doing much better functioning in society than most people I have known from social anxiety support groups- I know a lot of people in therapy, on medications, etc who have never held a job, never had a BF or GF, etc. Meanwhile I am married, have kids, own a business. I went back to school in my 30s. I go to multiple meetings per week, do business pitches, have won court cases pro se, had to deal with various hearings with bureacrats,etc.

Some things don’t change. For one, I am an introvert. I REQUIRE so many hours a day of sleep, work, etc. If I have to deal with things outside of that it takes away from my work (or family time, doing things with kids, etc) and other things exponentially.

That said, I do not take offense to your comments at all and appreciate your help.

Your neighbors will give you biased advice because it’s in their interest to lie to you. Just maintain the fence to whatever standard you want and tell you neighbors to buy their own fence if they object. I wouldn’t try to extract money from them; that would just give them a valid complaint as to the quality of the fence. In a lot of neighborhoods, every single property line has two fences on it; one on each side. Everyone gets along well. You might want to suggest this.

Since you don’t interact with your neighbors or really care if they do, just understand what your rights are. Normally you would have no obligation to maintain your fence for your neighbor’s benefit. But you should check the local fence ordinances for the City of Columbus, to make sure there isn’t some quirky rules there. I mean for God’s sake it is a city that does require you to have a whole room dedicated to the Buckeyes if your home’s square footage is more than 1,500.

As long as there aren’t rules requiring you to maintain it, let it fall down and properly dispose of it in a neat and orderly manner. When your neighbors complain to you, just look at them for about 20 seconds, tilt your head to the side, turn around and go back into your house. They’ll eventually figure out that you don’t owe them a fence eventually, and will build their own in the place of your old one.

Tear it down. You don’t want it. The neighbors can put up their own fence, it’s not your responsibility. And if their dog gets in your give it bacon.

Columbus Fence Rules PDF

I bet there are some fools reading this who think you’re joking about the Buckeye Room Ordinance.

Good points. That’s one of the reasons I went for 1360 sq ft.
Thanks for posting the “Fence Rules” pdf.

The social anxiety is actually one of the reasons I was asking about defined property line markers.

Whatever you decide, it might be easier to deal with on a purely factual basis. One reason for laws is that they can prevent headaches by making things clear-cut.

IANAL, but here’s what I envision.

“This fence is on my side of the property line. I no longer wish to have my fence up and will be taking it down in 14 days.”
“But my fence is attached to yours!”
“When you attached your fence to mine, you encroached upon my property without permission. I let you use my property free of charge for X years. I’m taking my fence down now, so you’ll have to find some other solution.”
“But but but…”
Then you offer to wait another week to take it down as an appeasement to the neighbor.

But all that depends on everything being really clear with the property lines. Maybe your wife knows where they might be.

Well, I know sometimes in Common law the fence belongs to both and both are expected to pay 1/2 the cost.

Consult a attorney. You can often get free advice.

Or if need be, you can get an attorney’s letter sent cheaply to any neighbor who is being a pain in the butt about your fence.

If I was the OP I wouldn’t unilaterally tear down my fence without knowing what my rights are.

I think you need a survey done before you do anything. You actually have no idea who’s property that fence is on. There’s a small chance it’s not even on your property on three sides, for all you know, whoever originally built it did some encroaching of their own. In that case, you can just let the other property owners have it.

Yeah, I probably wouldn’t care so much if a neighbor just wanted to own that part of the fence. I just don’t want to be responsible for maintaining it. If it’s accidentally on their property, it’s not like they are going to demand I take it down or move it- since they use it. If I built or bought a new fence (which I’m not inclined to do now, but who knows down the line) I’d be inclined to build it all inside the existing one (I don’t care about losing 6 inches of property) and let people have their falling down portions.