How do I replace a neighbor's fence with my own?

Behind my place is a dilapidated fence. I’m pretty sure it’s my neighbors because the fence posts are on their side. I have a feeling they will not repair it on their own and are probably not in the position to financially based on the condition of their property. What I would like to do is replace their entire fence on my dime. But I want it to be mine. On my side of the property line (wherever that is - that’s part of my problem).

What are the steps I would need to do to do is on the up and up?

Talk to the city and find out if there’s a setback for putting up a fence. If there is, put it on your side of the property line. If it’s a privacy fence, you won’t see the other fence anymore and that’ll be that. If you can see through it and you want their fence gone, talk to them about taking theirs down. There’s a good chance they’ll be happy to let you pay to remove their fence and replace it with your own.
I’d strongly suggest you get their permission, in writing, before starting. If a fencing company will be putting up the fence, possibly having them do the same thing. Just a CYA so they don’t sue you later and if someone gets hurt while working on their fence it’ll help with any insurance issues.

TLDR; talk to the neighbors and see what they have to say.

Who’s “the city” in this instance? Part of my problem is I don’t know who exactly to talk to.

Perhaps a survey is indicated? Then you will know who the fence belongs to.

I did this.

In my city, you either need to agree to share the fence line, or put your fence 3’ inside your property line. When I bought my house, I put up fencing on three sides, all 3’ within my property line. The fourth side consisted of my neighbor’s existing fence. I had to write up a little thing that said “I, [neighbor], agree to let ZipperJJ attach her fence to my existing fence.” and have him sign it. I think I submitted that to the city building department along with the plans, and then got my permit.

Years later I got a new dog and my dog could jump the neighbor’s old fence like nothing, so I had to buy a new fence (just that 1/4) to replace his part of the fence. I wrote another letter for him to sign. Something like “I, [neighbor], agree to let [Fence Company] remove my fence, and let ZipperJJ put up a new fence in its place, on the existing property line.” (Wish I could find the letters but I can’t…) and submit that to the city along with the plans, and then got my permit.

My neighbor also insisted that he got to keep the fence for scrap, which the fence company was happy to do.

Anyway…start with the fencing company, I think. I am pretty sure that’s where I started. Since they were licensed and bonded in my city they knew how to get the permit, they told me to get the letter signed by my neighbor, and they took care of the surveying to make sure it was in the right place.

You can also start at the building department in the city, to find some general guidelines, talk to someone who knows the procedure, and who can point you towards licensed and bonded fencing contractors. If you live in a township…I don’t know who does permitting in a township. There probably is an entity, though.

Assuming you’re in the U.S., Google the name of your municipality (or county if you live in an unincorporated area) with “zoning department” and you’ll get contact info for people who, if not exactly the right folks, can get you in touch with the right folks.

Do you live in a city/town/village? Start with the zoning board/department there. If you don’t live in a city/town/village, or if they handle zoning, then most likely it’s a county issue.

Well, that dependson where you are. Call up the local city or (if you don’t live inside city limits) county government offices, and explain your situation to whomever picks up the phone and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. There should be a zoning or planning office that takes care of this, and whoever mans the switchboard should know who that person is. Alternatievely, go to city hall, and find the somewhat-beyond-middle-aged lady* with kindly eyes manning the front desk. She knows everything there is to know about your situation.

*in some circumstances, this may be a man. He’s probably whittling something.

Go your local city hall and ask for either the building inspector or whoever handles permits. Either of them should be able to answer your questions or point you in the right direction.

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘who’s the city’. It’s the city you live in, the place where you mail your property taxes (if you own), whatever is written on the side of the police cars etc.

If you and your neighbor are in separate cities, it’s going to be your city. You’ll need a permit to build on your property. All that’s happening on their property is an old fence getting torn down.

Of course, this all assume you’re in the US and not in one of those jurisdictions that have specific laws about shared fences.

Did you really mean 3 feet? That seems like a huge setback for a fence - usually it’s a few inches. Or did Nigel Tufnel compose your post?

Ha! Nope, 3’. Allows you to take care of the lawn on the outside of your fence without needing to step on your neighbor’s lawn, and keeps your neighbor having to get too close to your fence when they take care of their lawn. Also if you both want to have non-joining fences, you’ve got a 6’ walkway between.

Not sure if I described this properly but you do have the ability to join fences with no space between, which is what I did on the other side where my neighbor already had a fence. Just need to get both homeowners to sign off on it.

And, our plots are 1/2 acre here. Not sure if that makes a difference in how you’re picturing it.

The orientation of the posts doesn’t necessarily mean anything. My fence has the posts on the outside (the “good” side faces into my backyard) except where it faces the street. Others feel posts on the inside prevent people from climbing the fence.

What matters is whose property it is on.

Make sure your property is properly surveyed. More than one homeowner has been burned by accidentally building their fence just over their property line.

Also, you shouldn’t build a new fence against the old one. Our neighbors did this to us when I was a kid - we had a ‘good neighbor’ fence with staggered boards before they moved in. . That makes each side identical, but allows you to see through the fence at certain angles. They wanted more privacy, so without consulting us they put up a privacy fence right against ours. This left about a 6" gap between the fences, which immediately started collecting garbage, tall grass, vermin, etc. I’m guessing part of the reason for the 3’ offset mentioned above is to eliminate such inaccessible areas.

OK, I can understand that a 3 foot setback looks a bit different on your property than it would on my 20 foot wide lot. But what I don’t understand is why anybody wouldn’t sign off on a joined fence, preferring a three or six foot wide strip in between - unless it’s just spite.

Round here, the fence posts go on the side of the person who put up the fence. I was lucky enough to find a lot marker at the edge of my property. You should have a look. If no joy, then a survey is in order. My brother had one of those done, and it turned out the guys who did it back in the 30’s were off by as much as 3 feet in places. You may own half his back yard. :wink:

Interesting comments - I think the key advice is check with your municipality.

In Ontario, I’ve built fences in 5 different different cities and I’ve never heard of anything like a 3’ setback for a fence. That setback exists for buildings, but not fences.

Here, the basic rules for shared fences (along the property line) are:
[li]Both neighbours must agree on the design. [/li][li]If they agree, they must share all costs equally (regardless of who suggested the fence) [/li][li]If one neighbour doesn’t want a fence and one does, the neighbour who doesn’t want it, must still pay 50% of the cost, but only of a basic fence (E.G.: I want a fancy cedar fence, she doesn’t. She must pay 50% of the cost of a chain link fence. That’s all.)[/li][/ul]

Practically speaking, rather than get into a dispute like that, usually you put the fence solely on you own property. Like the OP, that’s what I did.

I’ve never heard of a setback in any Ontario city. Usually you build it within 6" of the property line. If your neighbour is a dick and doesn’t want you “trespassing” on their property, you would need to move it further into yours.

If it’s solely on your property the only rule is that you can’t have your neighbour’s side looking “bad”. That’s why people use those board on board designs, both sides look the same.

FWIW my neighbors on the other side don’t have a fence at all. And if you look at the county plat overhead view the boat they store between their shed and my fence sits 2’ on my property!

But they’re good people, it’s all good. And if they wanted to join my fence it’d be fine.

Similar situation. We don’t have terribly severe setbacks, so I proposed to my neighbor that I put up a new fence just on my side of the property line if he would demo his old fence. He agreed quickly. Our landscaper recommended a fencing company, and the fencing contractor handled all of the permitting and stuff like that. Minimal hassle on my part once the contract was signed.

Our municipality requires that the “pretty” side of the fence face out from our property. In our case, we put up a shadow box wood fence, so the difference between the “pretty” side and the “ugly” side isn’t huge.

It was all pretty painless on my end. If you’re not sure about local rules and regulations, start by finding a contractor you like; they should be able to guide you through the rest of the process.

Yeah, that 3’ sounds extreme - tho it DOES resolve the potential issue of maintaining the grass outside of the fence. In various Chicago burbs, my understanding has been that the practice is to place the poles entirely on your property, such that the boards are pretty much right on the property line. But when done so, you can’t weedwhip along the fence w/o going on the neighbor’s land. I wonder how many people actually end up w/ 3-6’ “no-mans’ lands” between fences. Or, if only 1 neighbor has a fence, does he/she maintain that strip, or do they leave it to their neighbors?

Ashtura, no insult intended, and I know different peoples’ experiences may differ, but I’m curious how a home owner would not know who to call about property related matters. I understand that you might not know the specific department - or even whether the county or town controlled such matters, but my experience has consistently been that if you call any local government body, they are very eager to either help you or direct you to who can. Start with whoever you pay your property taxes to.

I replaced the fence between my house and the house behind me. All I did was send a letter to the owner stating I was going to replace the fence and asked if he was willing to contribute to the cost. I heard nothing back after 3 weeks so I went to work. The old fence was setback on my property about 2 feet due to a rock bulkhead that divided the properties. I took down the old fence, cleaned up all the blackberry vines growing through the bulkhead and put in the new fence.