Do good fences really make good neighbours?

Posted on Nov. 16, 2015 by Canada Post in smartmoves

Whether it's wood, metal, stone or shrubs, a fence can take many forms. The best kind is one that doesn’t offend the folks on the other side. If you're planning to build a fence around your property, be a good neighbour and follow proper fence etiquette.

Here are some tips to help you and your neighbours before the first fence post goes in.

Respect all property lines

Few fencing disputes are more heated than those concerning the property line. Needless to say, no one likes to feel like their turf has been taken away. So make sure you're particularly careful about where the fence is located. Check and double check the dimensions of your lot, then take a look around your property to see whether there are any existing markings. In some cases, professional installers will put fences a short distance inside your property line to avoid potential problems.

Before you make a final plan for your fence line, consider any nearby trees and plants that may grow toward or above it. For example, look for trees whose roots could interfere with your fence, or heavy branches that might drop and damage it.

Follow local laws

Provinces, cities and municipalities have various rules on allowable heights for fences around residential properties. It’s essential that you don't exceed the maximum height unless you've successfully applied for a variance, which gives you an exception to the rules.

Typically, there are also rules to negotiate any disagreements between neighbours. Check to see what applies in your area. In parts of Ontario, for instance, the Line Fences Act defines the guidelines for fence-related disputes between neighbours.

Avoid surprises

No matter how good or bad your relationship with your neighbour is, they deserve the courtesy of knowing your plans in advance. Provide them with tentative plans before the fence installer arrives. As long as the fence line doesn't infringe on their property, they don't have to give their approval, but it's still the neighbourly thing to do.

If you're on friendly terms and feel comfortable collaborating with your neighbour share the look and style of the fence. However, you may prefer to keep design details private in order to avoid confrontation, arguments and delays.

Put the best face outward, or make each side identical

If your fence has one side that's more finished than the other, it's courteous to have that be the side that faces outward, whether it's onto the street or toward your neighbour's yard. In some cases, this is even required by local bylaws.

A safer, easier option might be what's often referred to as the “good neighbour fence” – a style that appears identical from either side. Most often, this type of fence has alternating vertical wooden boards, sometimes with a strip of privacy lattice across the top.

Accept responsibility

If you install a fence around your property, don't dodge the upkeep and maintenance. Even if the problem is on your neighbour's side. For example, you might have a broken or sagging section. If you installed this fence, accept the responsibility of repairing any damage.

Do you have experience dealing with a fence-related dispute? Tell us about it.