Form-of-the-week: Notice of Intent to Alter Shared Boundary Fence – Form 323

Private owners of adjoining properties are presumed to benefit equally from boundary fences. Under this presumption, all adjoining owners are equally responsible for constructing, maintaining and replacing these fences. [Calif. Civil Code §841]

A boundary is any structure or monument between two adjoining parcels of land. Boundaries can be anything — a large tree trunk, ditch or improvement. Common boundaries include a:

  • waterway;
  • driveway; or
  • manmade fence.

The typical shared fence is known as a boundary fence, commonly owned by adjacent property owners.

Disputes about who is responsible for the cost of erecting and maintaining boundary fences are frequent between adjoining owners. Unless specified by a written agreement between adjacent property owners, each owner is presumed to be equally responsible for the costs of construction, maintenance or replacement of a common boundary fence. [CC §841]

However, an exception to equally sharing the costs of maintaining a boundary fence exists when the costs are considered unreasonable. Costs are unreasonable if:

  • the financial burden for one owner is substantially higher than the benefit of the fence to that owner;
  • the cost of the fence exceeds the difference in value of any of the owners’ land before and after the fence’s installation;
  • the construction or maintenance of the fence imposes an undue financial hardship given the owner’s financial circumstances; or
  • the reasonableness of the construction or maintenance, in regards to the extent to which the costs are unnecessary or excessive or the costs are a result of the owner’s aesthetic or architectural preferences. [CC §841(b)(3)]

Related article:

Good fences make good neighbors

Typically, when a boundary fence is in need of repair, replacement or maintenance, it is generally one owner who initiates contact with the adjacent neighbor calling for some remedial action. When more than one owner is responsible for a boundary fence, the owner who plans to construct, replace or maintain the fence is required to deliver a 30-day written notice to each affected adjoining property owner prior to commencement of any work. [CC §841(b)(2)]

Even if one property owner intends to pay for everything to be done to the fence, the 30-day written notice is used to provide details of the proposed repairs to the adjoining neighbors.

first tuesday’s Notice of Intent to Alter Shared Boundary Fence is a 30-day written notice defining each owner’s responsibility for sharing the cost of maintaining the boundary fence. [See first tuesday Form 323]

As required by state codes, first tuesday’s 30-day notice includes:

  • a notification of the presumption of equal responsibility for the boundary fence;
  • the location of the boundary fence;
  • a description of the problem to be addressed;
  • the proposed corrective action to be taken to solve the issue;
  • the estimated cost of the corrective action;
  • the proposed division of costs between property owners;
  • the proposed timeline to address the problem ; and
  • an invitation to discuss the corrective action proposed. [CC §841(b)(2); see first tuesday Form 323]