Installing a new fence or replacing an old one is a common home (or commercial) improvement project that enhances privacy, security, and aesthetic appeal. However, you can’t get started without knowing your property lines and the legal implications surrounding them.

Failing to respect property lines when installing a fence can lead to disputes, legal battles, and potential fines or penalties. Encroaching on your neighbor’s land, even unintentionally, is considered trespassing and can result in the removal or relocation of the fence at your expense.

To help you avoid such complications, the fencing contractors at Anchor Fence Inc. discuss how to accurately determine your property lines and how to plan your project accordingly in this blog.

Why Property Boundaries Matter in Fence Installation

Property boundaries determine where you can safely and legally install your new fence. Crossing those boundaries isn’t just a legal issue; it can also put you on worse terms with your neighbors, who maintain the portion of the fence on their side of the property line.

Boundaries matter for many reasons. Here are the main ones:

  • Avoiding encroachment: Building a fence on your neighbor’s property can lead to significant legal and personal disputes.
  • Neighborly relations: Building on your neighbor’s property can strain your relationship. Ideally, open communication before your project starts will keep you on good terms.
  • Maintenance access: Fences need repairs and upkeep. Knowing which side is yours ensures you have proper access for maintenance without trespassing on your neighbor’s side.
  • Fence design: Understanding the property line can influence your fence design. For instance, if you want a finished look on both sides, you’ll need to place it right on the line.

Fence Laws: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

When you install a fence, there are practical and legal considerations, and then there are courtesies or optional preparations that can potentially make the installation smoother.

Here’s a breakdown of the legal requirements you typically need to follow:

  • Fence type restrictions: Not all fence types are always permissible. In Livonia, for instance, only the Director of Inspection decides whether a fence design conforms to neighborhood standards.
  • Setback requirements: These bylaws specify the minimum distance your fence must be built away from the property line. This prevents fences from encroaching on public or private spaces.
  • Easements: An easement grants specific rights to another person or entity to use a portion of your land for a designated purpose. Examples include power lines, drainage, or access points.
  • Permitting: Obtain necessary permits and approvals from local authorities before starting construction to ensure compliance with building codes and regulations.

Conducting a Property Survey Before Installation

A property survey, also called a fence line survey, helps pinpoint the exact location of your property boundaries. During the survey, a professional will visit your property, use specialized equipment to measure and map the boundaries, and often physically mark them with flags or stakes.

Relying solely on existing markers, such as fences or landscaping features, can be misleading and, in many cases, doesn’t represent the true property lines. The surveyor can parse public records like deeds or title searches that provide historical descriptions of your property’s boundaries.

During fieldwork, the surveyor will also use a total station, which combines a telescope and an electronic distance meter to measure precise angles and distances. They’ll also use a GPS to pinpoint their location and reference points with high accuracy.

Communicating With Neighbors About Fence Building

Telling your neighbor about your fence installation isn’t required; it’s a courtesy. However, if you don’t inform them, this can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary disputes.

Come equipped with research regarding local permitting, fence height, and property line requirements so you can articulate your goals and show you’ve been proactive and responsible in your planning.

Here are a few other tips you can use to communicate with your neighbors about the fence-building process:

Initiate Contact

  • A casual chat in person is ideal; knock on their door, introduce yourself (if you haven’t already), and mention you’re planning to install a fence.

During the Conversation

  • Briefly explain why you want to install a fence (privacy, pets, dilapidated existing fence, etc.).
  • Ask if they have any concerns about the fence, especially its height or style.
  • Be transparent about the property survey, and offer to share results.

Maintain Open Communication

  • Let them know the estimated timeline for construction and any potential disruptions.
  • If any issues arise, listen to their concerns and work together to find a solution if possible.

Respecting Easements and Right-of-Ways

While easements grant specific use rights to another property across yours, a right-of-way is a specific type of easement that typically grants passage rights.

If an easement or a right-of-way exists where you want to build your fence, you might be restricted from building there entirely, or you may need to modify your fence design to allow access for the easement holder.

Here’s what you can do to understand each easement and right-of-way:

  • Carefully review your property survey and legal documents to identify any limitations.
  • Understand the purpose and terms, as they may grant specific rights to others, such as access or utility maintenance.
  • Ensure your fence doesn’t obstruct or interfere with their intended use.
  • Obtain necessary permits or approvals if the fence installation may interfere with restrictions.

How Do Property Lines Affect Fence Design?

Property lines can impact the overall layout and configuration of your fence design. If your property has irregular shapes or curves, you may need to incorporate angled sections or custom features to ensure the fence follows legal boundaries accurately.

If you plan to split the fence cost with a neighbor, a fence style that allows for customization can become ideal. For instance, a lattice fence with removable panels allows each neighbor to add their own decorative touches while maintaining a shared structure.

Partner With Our Fencing Contractors to Navigate Property Lines

Navigating property lines, while absolutely necessary, hinges on accurate information and research that can be difficult to obtain alone. The fencing contractors at Anchor Fence Inc. can help.

Call (313) 937-0101 to let our team guide you through the intricacies of property lines, easements, and fence design.