Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Dated: April 23 2020

Views: 303

CA’s Good Neighbor Fence Law – What is it and How will it Help Me?

I recently had the experience of needing to replace a good neighbor fence on a property I am renovating.  Unfortunately, one of the neighbors hasn't been very helpful and has refused to split the costs with me.  I found this article by RC Fences out of the Bay Area.  I thought it was well written and had some good information.  Hopefully it will save you some time and hassle!  

If you haven’t heard about California’s good neighbor fence law, then please continue  reading as it could possibly save you thousands of dollars!

One of the most common issues we run into when providing an estimate for a potential client, is that the the homeowner’s neighbor refuses to help pay for the cost of a new fence. In fact, nearly 25% of the fences we build, the homeowner chooses to not even ask the neighbor to pay for half, assuming that when their neighbor is informed of the new construction, they would likely just offer as it’s the right thing to do, right?

Most would agree that, yes, in most cases, splitting the cost is the right thing to do and only “fair”.  Despite this, many neighbors will downright refuse to pay for any of the new fence.  We believe this is largely due to the misconception that they are not legally responsible should they not want to pay any!  Where on earth this belief ever came from is unknown, but it is widely accepted and 100% wrong!

My Neighbor Won’t Pay for Half the Costs of a New Fence
So you are presented with the same predicament?  It wouldn’t be fair for you to pay for the whole fence, and the law is clear that you don’t have to.

Here is the Actual Law for those of you who like reading this sort of stuff –  CIVIL CODE Section 841

And for those of you who would rather read a layman’s description of the good neighbor fence law, here goes…

CA’s Good Neighbor Fence Law
In CA, two people whose properties border each other are both required to maintain an existing fence between the properties, with only a few exceptions.  In short, each owner has to pay one-half of the cost of maintaining or replacing the fence.

Exceptions to The Good Neighbor Law
Of course, just like every other law ever created, there are exceptions.

If your neighbor has never fenced his land, he does not have to provide a fence that only really serves you.For those who live in rural areas where fences are not as common and many landowners don’t want to build or maintain a fence around their property.  In this case, if a neighbor builds a fence, the fenceless owner doesn’t have the pay for it.  Unless the fenceless owner someday decides to build his own fence. In that case, he has to pay the other owner for one-half of the already existing fence.  To put it much more simply, If a property owner benefits from the fence, he has to contribute to its cost.

What if Neighbor Doesn’t Care if Fence Falls Down
A lot of people make the argument that since they don’t care if their property has a fence or not, they aren’t benefiting from the fence.  Well, it’s simpler than that.  If the neighbor has a fence around his house, whether he likes it or not, a court will find that he benefits from the fence. Period.

In the area where you live, all of the houses have had fenced yards going way back to the 1950s.  Your neighbor is on the hook for half of the new fence.

However, you can be right and still have to pay for the whole fence.  This is if you don’t properly go about building the new shared fence!

What Steps Must I Take to Win In Court?
If you have ever sat through a small claims court session you undoubtedly saw at least one litigant going after a neighbor to pay for half of a fence. It happens all the time.

So what do you do?


  1. Start out by documenting the current condition of the fence. Include good color pictures.
  2. Call a minimum of 3 fencing companies, such as RC Fences and Decks, and get bids from each!
  3. Print out a copy of Notice of Intent to Alter Shared Boundary Fence fill it out fully and send it to your neighbor by certified mail with return receipt requested a minimum of 30 days before beginning construction.
  4. Schedule one of the fence contractors, most likely you’ll want to choose RC Fences and Decks, due to their superb attention to detail along with their reasonable prices, but keep all of the bids so you can show that the price was reasonable.
  5. Once fence is completed, make payment in full to contractor, making sure to keep all documents such as invoices, receipts, copy of your check, etc. for court!
  6. Make demand to neighbor for half of costs.

If he still refuses now you will need to go down to the courthouse and file a small claims suit against your neighbor and pay the small fee.

When you show up for court be prepared with the pictures, the bids, your cancelled check, and a copy of Code of Civil Procedure section 841.
As the law is in favor of you fully, the case is a win, as long as you followed the proper procedure outlined above.  The only issue is now you must collect the amount ordered to be paid to you.  This, as many people know, can be a whole other issue, and information on collection can be found on your local county court self help website.

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Justin Cooper - CAL Dre #01911357

Justin Cooper is a 14-year Real Estate veteran based in the Greater Sacramento region. However, his career has taken him to numerous markets around the country. Justin prides himself on superior custo....

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