Neighbor Disputes: Repairing or Replacing a Shared Fence

In Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Orange County Communities and elsewhere, good neighbors can be the key to a happy home; thus the reverse is also true. Neighbor disputes, frequently surrounding fence line and property line issues, can be the end-all of confrontational matters and lend to costly litigation. A shared fence, worn and in need of repair or replacement, can be a prime catalyst for confrontation. While a headache or uncomfortable, shared fences in California can be addressed with some clarity thanks to a specified statute, “the Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013,” California Civil Code section 841. 

Essentially, the Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 (“the Act”) presumes that both neighbors share an equal benefit from the fence, and therefore should be equally responsible for its maintenance. The Act therefore sets up a specific set of requirements to inform the neighbor of the needed repairs, provide various specifics on the proposed repairs, including costs estimates, and allow the neighbor 30-days to respond. Use caution to comply with the specific notice requirements set out in Civil Code section 841. 
Upon compliance with the requirements for notice, there is a presumption that an equal share is now owed. There are some notable exceptions, including a financial hardship, and ensuring an equal benefit, written into the Act. Ultimate enforcement however rests with a civil lawsuit for money damages (i.e. complete the repairs, then, if no ability to reason with the neighbor after attempting to informally resolve [though resolution efforts are not required; they are strongly recommended], file a lawsuit for compensation of the equal share owed). 
Of course, suing your neighbor is unlikely to ease any tensions, but is sometimes required over legitimate issues that cannot be resolved otherwise. If the share owed is under $10,000, a small claims case would be appropriate, far more expeditious, and far less costly. There is no provision for recovery of attorney’s fees, so even if the amount owed is in excess of small claims, consideration of the expenses of litigation must be considered. 
-Devin Lucas


Author Devin R. Lucas is a Real Estate Attorney, Broker and REALTOR®, specializing in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Orange County, serving individual, investor and small business interests in real estate.  Active with the Newport Beach Association of REALTORS® and Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Devin R. Lucas Real Estate is an independent real estate brokerage and law practice located in Newport Beach, California.

Devin R. Lucas Real Estate
Real Estate Attorney | Real Estate Broker | REALTOR®
devinrlucas.com | devin@devinrlucas.com | BRE No. 01912302
949.478.1623 office | 888.667.6038 fax

2901 West Coast Highway Suite 200
Newport Beach | California | 92663-4023

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