What To Do When Your Neighbor Won’T Pay For Half Of A Shared Fence In California

Building or replacing a fence between two properties can get complicated when it comes to cost sharing. If you and your neighbor can’t agree on splitting the price of a shared fence, things may end up in court. This guide will walk through the relevant laws and options you have in California when a neighbor refuses to pay their share of a fence.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Under California law, adjoining landowners are responsible for the reasonable costs of building, maintaining, and repairing shared fences. If your neighbor won’t pay their share voluntarily, you can sue them in small claims court for the amount owed.

California Laws on Shared Fences

When it comes to shared fences in California, there are specific laws in place that govern the responsibilities of adjacent property owners. These laws aim to ensure fairness and maintain good neighborly relationships.

Understanding these laws can help you navigate any disputes or issues that may arise when your neighbor refuses to pay for half of a shared fence.

Adjacent property owners share fence costs

In California, the general rule is that adjacent property owners are equally responsible for the costs of constructing and maintaining a shared fence. This means that if you and your neighbor decide to build a fence between your properties, you both have an obligation to contribute to the expenses.

It’s important to note that this rule applies regardless of who benefits more from the fence or who initiated the construction. Both parties are considered to have an equal interest in the fence, and therefore, an equal financial obligation.

If your neighbor refuses to pay for their share of the fence, it’s recommended to have a conversation with them first to try and resolve the issue amicably. Explain the legal obligations and the benefits of having a shared fence.

Sometimes, a simple conversation can help clear up misunderstandings and encourage cooperation.

Fences must not exceed reasonable cost

While California law mandates that adjacent property owners share the costs of a shared fence, it also sets a limit on what is considered a reasonable cost. According to the law, the cost of the fence must be proportionate to the benefits that each property owner receives.

If you plan on installing an extravagant or expensive fence, it’s important to consult the law to ensure that your neighbor is not burdened with an unreasonable expense. It’s always a good idea to discuss the design and cost of the fence with your neighbor beforehand to avoid any potential disputes.

It’s worth noting that if your neighbor believes that the cost of the fence is unreasonable, they have the right to challenge it in court. In such cases, the court will consider factors such as the type of fence, its purpose, and the average cost of similar fences in the area.

For more information on California’s laws regarding shared fences, you can visit the official website of the California Legislative Information: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/home.xhtml

Remember, it’s always best to approach these situations with open communication and a willingness to find a mutually beneficial solution. Maintaining a good relationship with your neighbor is essential, and resolving any fence-related issues can help preserve harmony in your community.

Determining if a Fence is Shared

When dealing with a neighbor who refuses to pay for their share of a shared fence in California, it is important to first determine if the fence is indeed shared. Here are a few steps to help you determine the ownership of the fence:

1. Check property lines

The first step is to make sure you are aware of the property lines. This can be done by checking the official property survey or by consulting with a professional surveyor. By understanding the exact boundaries of your property, you will be able to determine if the fence falls within the shared boundary or if it is solely on your neighbor’s property.

2. Review any fence agreements

If you have any existing agreements or contracts with your neighbor regarding the fence, it is crucial to review them thoroughly. These agreements may outline the responsibilities of each party when it comes to maintenance, repairs, and cost-sharing.

If there is a written agreement in place, it can serve as a strong basis for discussions with your neighbor.

3. Get a survey done if needed

In some cases, it may be necessary to hire a professional surveyor to conduct a new survey of the property. This is especially important if there is a dispute over the property lines or if the existing survey is outdated.

A surveyor will accurately determine the exact location of the fence and provide you with a detailed report that can be used as evidence in discussions or legal proceedings.

Remember, it is always best to try and resolve any disputes with your neighbor amicably. Open communication, compromise, and understanding can go a long way in reaching a mutually beneficial solution. If all else fails, seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney specializing in property law can provide you with the guidance and support you need to navigate the situation effectively.

Deciding on Fence Details

When it comes to building a shared fence with your neighbor in California, there are several important details that need to be decided upon. By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth and fair process.

Agree on fence location

The first step in deciding on fence details is to agree on the location of the fence. This involves determining where the property line is and discussing with your neighbor how the fence will be positioned.

It’s important to communicate openly and come to a mutual agreement, as disputes over property lines can often lead to unnecessary conflicts. If there is any uncertainty about the property line, it may be helpful to consult a professional surveyor.

Choose fence design and materials

Once the location of the fence has been determined, the next step is to choose the design and materials for the fence. This decision should be made jointly with your neighbor, taking into consideration factors such as privacy, aesthetics, and budget.

There are various options available, including wooden fences, chain-link fences, and vinyl fences. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision.

For more information on different fence designs and materials, you can visit reputable websites like Home Depot or Lowe’s. These websites offer a wide range of options and provide detailed information on the different types of fences available.

Get multiple bids and agree on a contractor

After deciding on the fence design and materials, it’s a good idea to get multiple bids from different contractors. This will help you compare prices and ensure that you are getting a fair deal. It’s important to choose a licensed and reputable contractor who has experience in building fences.

You can ask for recommendations from friends, family, or neighbors, or you can search for contractors online. Once you have received the bids, discuss them with your neighbor and come to an agreement on which contractor to hire.

Remember, building a shared fence requires open communication, compromise, and cooperation with your neighbor. By following these steps and working together, you can successfully navigate the process of deciding on fence details and create a fence that benefits both parties.

Options If Your Neighbor Refuses to Pay

Send demand letter

If your neighbor refuses to pay for their share of a shared fence in California, one option you have is to send them a demand letter. This letter should clearly state the amount they owe and the deadline for payment. It is important to keep a copy of this letter for your records.

Sending a demand letter shows your neighbor that you are serious about resolving the issue and can often motivate them to pay their share.

File claim in small claims court

If your neighbor still refuses to pay after receiving a demand letter, you may consider filing a claim in small claims court. Small claims court is designed to handle disputes involving smaller amounts of money, making it a cost-effective option for resolving fence payment issues.

Before filing a claim, gather any evidence you have, such as receipts or photographs of the fence, to support your case. It is also a good idea to consult with an attorney or research your local small claims court procedures to ensure you follow the correct steps.

Get reimbursement after paying full cost

If you decide to pay for the entire cost of the shared fence yourself, you may still have options to get reimbursed. In California, the law allows you to request reimbursement from your neighbor for their share of the fence, even if they initially refused to contribute.

To increase your chances of success, it is important to keep detailed records of all expenses related to the fence, including receipts and invoices. You can then use this documentation to support your claim and seek reimbursement through negotiation or legal action if necessary.

Remember, it is always best to try to resolve conflicts with neighbors amicably. Open communication and compromise can often lead to a mutually beneficial solution. If all else fails, consulting with a legal professional can provide guidance and help you navigate the process effectively.

Tips for Avoiding Disputes Over Fence Costs

Discuss plans early

One of the best ways to avoid disputes over fence costs with your neighbor is to have an open and honest discussion about your plans early on. By discussing your intentions and expectations from the beginning, you can ensure that both parties are on the same page.

This will help prevent any misunderstandings or disagreements later on.

It’s a good idea to talk about the type of fence you want, the materials you plan to use, and the estimated cost. This will allow your neighbor to make an informed decision and consider their budget as well.

By initiating this conversation early, you can establish a cooperative atmosphere and reduce the chances of a conflict arising.

Get agreement in writing

When it comes to shared expenses, it’s always a good idea to have a written agreement in place. This document should clearly outline the responsibilities of each party, including the cost sharing arrangement.

By putting everything in writing, you can avoid any potential misunderstandings or disputes in the future.

Ensure that the agreement includes details such as the total cost of the fence, the percentage each party will contribute, and the timeline for payment. Having a written agreement can provide a sense of security and accountability for both you and your neighbor.

If you need help drafting a formal agreement, consider consulting with a legal professional or using online templates specifically designed for shared expenses.

Be flexible on fence choices

When it comes to shared fences, it’s important to be flexible and open-minded. While you may have a specific type of fence in mind, your neighbor may have different preferences or budget constraints. Being willing to compromise and consider alternative options can help maintain a positive relationship and prevent disputes.

Consider discussing various fence materials or designs that meet both parties’ needs. This could include exploring different styles, heights, or even sharing the cost of maintenance and repairs. By being flexible, you can find a solution that satisfies both you and your neighbor.

Communicate openly through the process

Throughout the process of planning, building, and paying for the shared fence, it’s crucial to maintain open lines of communication with your neighbor. Regularly check in with each other to ensure that everyone is still on the same page and address any concerns or issues that may arise.

If any changes or unforeseen circumstances occur, make sure to discuss them with your neighbor as soon as possible. This can help prevent misunderstandings and keep the project moving forward smoothly.

By maintaining open and respectful communication, you can foster a positive relationship with your neighbor and minimize the chances of a dispute over fence costs.

Remember, it’s always better to address potential issues proactively rather than waiting for them to escalate. By following these tips, you can increase the likelihood of a smooth and amicable resolution when it comes to sharing the cost of a fence with your neighbor in California.


Splitting the cost of a shared fence with a neighbor in California does not have to be a frustrating experience. Understanding the relevant laws and following tips like getting agreements in writing early on can help avoid conflicts. If your neighbor still refuses to pay their fair share, you have legal options to recover the amount owed. With a cooperative approach focused on compromise, you and your neighbor can hopefully reach an amicable resolution and end up with a finished fence you both are satisfied with.

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