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Property Line and Fence Laws in California 

Property Disputes

Nothing can sour a neighborhood like a property line or fence dispute. A fence can protect your privacy and property, but before you start building, you need to be aware of how California handles property line and fence disputes. From placement disputes to maintenance issues and tree trimming confusion, California property line disagreements can get complex. If good fences make good neighbors, keep these laws in mind before you start building.

Fence Placement

First things first, before construction on a fence takes place, you need to decide where to put it. Some of the most common fencing disputes begin with a disagreement over where to put the fence. Before you assume you know where your property line sits, it is best to conduct a survey of the property to establish where your personal property begins and ends. Generally, if a fence is being built by one household, it needs to be constructed off of the property line of other homeowners.

The State of California generally recognizes that in neighborhoods, a boundary fence will benefit both homeowners equally. Typically, both homeowners are responsible for the costs of construction and maintenance of the fence. When one household decides to erect a fence, they must give the other homeowner at least 30 days of notice before work begins. The law also states that the written notice needs to include information on the presumption of equal responsibility for the costs of construction and maintenance. It should also include a plan on how to approach cost-sharing and the timeline for construction.

If a neighbor constructs a fence, and you believe it sits on your property, or the fence crosses your property line, you may need to consult with an attorney. In some situations, a title company can refuse to issue insurance when it is time for you to sell your home. More importantly, a neighbor could take ownership of that piece of property through adverse possession. If a neighbor fences in your property as their own, and keep hold of it for five continuous years, the property could become theirs if they pay property taxes to cover the land.

Spite Fences

California law also prohibits the building of what is known as “spite fences.” A spite fence is a fence or any “fence-like” structure like a hedge that exceeds 10 feet in height. This type of fence is constructed with malicious intent to annoy or bother a neighbor.

Tree Trimming

The state also outlines very specific measures for trimming trees across property lines. Neighbors are allowed to trim branches that extend onto their property but cannot trim to the point where it harms the tree itself. Likewise, a neighbor is not allowed to come onto your property to cut down or damage a tree that extends onto their land.

If your tree is negligently damaged by a neighbor, you may be able to sue for compensation. The law allows a property owner the ability to recover money for what you paid for the tree and typically the cost to replace it. California also has criminal laws on the books that may apply to those who damage or destroy trees not located on their own property.

If you have questions about fencing or have a property line dispute, talk to an experienced California attorney today. Leaving a fencing dispute to fester can ruin your relationship with neighbors and could adversely impact your property.

Contact a California Property Dispute Lawyer

Protect your rights and contact a California property dispute lawyer at Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, in Riverside. Reach out online and we can schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team today.


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