Bad neighbors make for good fences

My family recently acquired a dog. He’s a great dog, a 6-year-old golden retriever; the woman who had owned him since he was a pup was moving across the country and had to give him up. But he’s a big dog – 85 pounds – and needs his exercise. We take him on walks, but since our backyard is unfenced, we must have him on a leash in the yard, else he’ll run away.

We’ve contracted to put a fence around the yard. Mind you, it’s a 1-acre lot, and fencing such a lot isn’t cheap. So, we decided on 5-ft high chain link. The east end of my property is a drainage gulley full of scrub brush, small trees, snakes and the occasional coyote. Work commenced last Thursday.

On Friday, my neighbor to the north came over to my house and screamed at my wife that we were destroying her property value, that the fence was not in compliance with the CC&R, and that she would sue us for everything we were worth. (This was the first time since we moved into our house over a year ago that she had even spoken to us.) Now, my neighbor and her husband are quite wealthy; this isn’t the only home they own, and they’re not even in it half the time. They’ve got a stone wall (covered with what looks to be plaster or stucco) around their entire property. It’s not likely that they would even see the chain link fence on my side of the line, but this woman was spitting nails.

I came home from work right away and read over the covenants on our property. As I suspected, there were no restrictions on the composition of fences; in fact, the only restrictions in the neighborhood have to do with the height of buildings and trees – you can’t block someone else’s view. It’s hard to argue that a 5 foot tall fence blocks any views, and harder still to argue that a chain link fence of any height would do the same. I went over to my neighbor and politely pointed out that there were no covenants against my building a chain link fence, that other people in the development had such fences, and that we were well within our rights to do so. She became livid, threatening me with everything from endless lawsuits to the bubonic plague. I made an appointment with an attorney and went back to the office. We told the fencing company to stop work until we could resolve this matter.

Later that afternoon, my neighbor came over to my wife in tears, apologizing for the scene she had caused. She even offered to split the difference in cost between chain link and wood or wrought iron. (I feel she talked to her lawyer and found she has no case, and decided to make nice, but I’m too cynical sometimes.) Well, we really didn’t want to antagonize anyone, so we got a new quote from the fencing company: to erect either wood or wrought iron would cost an additional $3400.

When we brought the figure over to the neighbor, she said her husband refused to pay for any fence that wasn’t on his property. He offered to let us put some wrought iron on top of his stone wall. But we felt that we’d be unable to prevent subsequent owners from removing the wrought iron and enabling our dog to hop the fence. (I should point out here that the stone fence is sometimes barely two feet above the ground along the common property line.) So, our neighbors were going against their word.

I met with my attorney yesterday, and he confirmed what I had learned on my own: that I can make a fence out of any materials, and my neighbor is unable to stop me. Further, they don’t even live in the same development, and would have no standing in a lawsuit against me based on the covenants for my subdivision.

A big part of me wants to screw the neighbors over and put up the chain link fence anyway. But I’d hate to cut off my nose just to spite my face. My wife and I both agree that a wrought iron fence would be more attractive; it would also allow egress for the various bunnies, quail, and ducks that come into our yard should the dog start chasing them. And we can afford the additional $3400.

I’m leaning toward the wrought iron fence. I’ve also told my wife that if she really wants the wrought iron, we’ll go that route…but if she wants to put up chain link, I’ll fight with the neighbors tooth and nail. So, what would you do in my shoes? (Besides get some odor-eaters.)

My gut instinct is that your neighbor is being a completely manipulative bitch and that you should ignore her.

First off, you’ve confirmed that she doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on at all. I note here that she came over and tried to make nice after she spouted off at you, and I’m inclined to believe she only did that because she found out the same thing you did.

Next, she offers to split the cost but doesn’t mention the “on our property” stipulation until you show up with the figures.

Conclusion 1. Build the fence on your property. You have the legal right to do it and she has no legal recourse against you. Probably this will incur the wrath of your neighbor, so you might want to keep an eye on that side of the property for a while to make sure she doesn’t pull anything. If anything does happen, make an ostentatious show of having the cops come and inspect the damage, without actually confronting your neighbor. Chances are if she sees you’re willing to bring the cops into it, she won’t pull the same stunts again.

Conclusion 2. Build the fence out of whatever materials you feel you can afford. If you think the wrought iron fence is worth the extra $3400 to help other animals out in the heat of pursuit, go for it. On the other hand, it will also easily let animals in that you might not want associating with yer puppy there - rabid animals and the like. Thirdly, there’s no guarantee Puppy won’t be able to squeeze between the rails and go off on adventures.

Building a fence out of whatever materials are deemed legal, where you have the right to, and because of animal control considerations, is not cutting off your nose to spite your face. Your neighbor, who has not spoken to you once since you’ve moved there except over this issue, is being completely petty. Even her offers of conciliation are backhanded. Ignore her and enjoy your fence as it keeps yer puppy able to roam but not too far.

Best of luck!

I agree with you, Olen. Saying that putting up the chain link fence would be cutting off my nose to spite my face was a bit of an overstatement. What I meant to say is that I don’t want to put up a fence that I feel to be inferior merely to agitate my neighbor…no matter how much she deserves it :slight_smile:

And there’s no fear that my dog will slip through the wrought iron. The bars are 4 inches apart, and we’re talking about a very large dog (he outweighs my 12-year-old daughter, who wouldn’t be able to slip through the fence either). I’m not sure even a coyote could get through the wrought iron, but your point about rabid animals is well-taken.

My wife seems getting more adamant about wanting the wrought iron, so this question is becoming moot. But whatever happens, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I speak to that vicious harpy next door.