You’ve just moved into a new house and your backyard butts up against your neighbor’s property. You want to make some improvements to the yard which may include a new fence, but you aren’t quite sure what your responsibility is to your neighbor. It’s always best to consider neighborly best practices before making a decision so everyone is happy.

Sharing a fence with your neighbors can come with many benefits-including convenience, privacy and security, but it can also be complicated if you don’t know how to go about discussing the matter with them.

Here are a few of the commonly asked questions people have about sharing a fence with their neighbor:

Do You Share The Cost Of Building A Fence With Your Neighbor?

If a boundary fence is built along the property line you may be able to seek reimbursement from your neighbor through RCW 16.60.030. If both parties agree, you can split the cost equally. In some cases, you may even be able to negotiate a lower cost if one party is especially motivated and willing to pay for more than half of the total cost. However, it’s important to be aware of any local building codes and regulations that may come into play when sharing the cost of construction. Additionally, it’s always helpful to have a written agreement between you and your neighbor outlining the terms of the fence-building project.

How to build a fence legally in Washington State?

Washington State requires you accurately know your property line which may require a survey. You are also required to inform your neighbors in writing of your intent to build a fence. If part of a Home Owners Association you will need to check the HOA rules regarding any requirements. No permit is required if your fence is 6ft or lower. Taller fences require a permit.

Is a fence required between properties?

Washington State does not require a fence to be built between properties. There are some exceptions including the presence of an animal that requires containment or the property has a pool or spa.

What are the requirements for a fence if the property has a pool or spa?

For safety reason Washington state law requires a fence at least 48″ high completely enclosing the pool or spa with a self closing, and self latching gate. Additionally, the latch must not be in reach of children.

Are spite fences legal?

Per RCW 7.40.030 Washington State law prohibits the construction of any fence meant to spite, or annoy a neighboring landowner.

Are there regulations on height and placement?

When building a fence in the Washington State it’s important to understand local regulations for height and placement. Generally speaking, residential fences should be no more than six feet high, with an additional two feet of architectural embellishments such as lattice.  Additionally, if your property is situated on a slope or near a street-corner, then you may need to get permission from your local government before building the fence. Finally, you should always check with your neighbor to make sure that they are comfortable with the height and location of the Pacific Northwest fence.

Exact height and placement restrictions may also vary by city.

Sound confusing? Not to worry, an experienced local fence builder will know all the rules and regulations.

Can my neighbor remove my fence without asking?

If professionally built and within your property lines it would likely require a court order. Pacific Northwest property owners should check with their local government to find out the regulations for removing a fence. Generally, both neighbors must agree to remove the existing fence and any other permanent structures from the property line. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that you get written consent from your neighbor before taking down the Pacific Northwest fence. Finally, it’s always helpful to have a written agreement between you and your neighbor outlining the terms of the fence-removal project.

Are there tree trimming rules?

Typically, the property owner can trim branches off a neighboring tree if they are encroaching on their property line. However, if the trimming kills, or irreparably damages the tree the property owner may be held liable for timber trespass per RCW 64.12.030.

Can I build an adjoining fence?

When Pacific Northwest property owners are looking to build a fence that adjoins their neighbor’s, it’s important to consider all of the variables before getting started.

While boundary fences may require an agreement with your neighbor as it is built directly on the property line you can build a non-boundary fence so long as it is on your side of the property line. Non boundary fences are typically required to be between 2 and 8 inches from the property line depending on your area.

Pacific Northwest regulations require that fences be no more than 6 feet in height, with an additional 2 feet for ornamental decoration, and should not obstruct views from neighboring properties.

What is a “neighbor-friendly” fence?

Simply put, a neighbor friendly fence is constructed the same way on both sides. In other words, front and back both look the same. A less expensive option would have support posts and rough finishing on the neighbors side making for a potential eyesore.

If you’re in the market for a privacy fence, consider taking your pick of two sides. Privacy fences typically feature solid panels on one side with supporting slats on the other. Pointing to solid side outwards is not only polite, it is standard practice.

For those looking for a classic, symmetrical feel to their landscape- neighbor friendly, or good neighbor fences might be just the ticket. Stronger than standard fence construction due to its “sandwich-style” build, both you and your neighbor will get an equal view of style with no exposed link slats. Now that’s what we call true harmony!

What do I do if a neighbors new fence encroaches on my land?

Your neighbor may have built a new fence that encroaches on your property. Occasionally it is intentional but most often it is simply a mistake.

Before engaging in a full-blown dispute, make sure to find out where exactly the property line lies! Sure, most people think they know where their backyard ends and theirs begins. But from block walls to shrubs or driveways – these are notoriously unreliable markers of territory division… You’d be hard pressed not getting caught up in neighborly quarrels if the exact location of your lot isn’t established first! To avoid any differences later on down the road: seek assistance for professional surveying services as soon as possible.

If you believe your neighbor’s encroachment needs to be remedied, an amiable exchange is the best approach first. Bring up the issue in a polite manner and provide evidence like survey markers or maps that back up what you are saying. Even if it ends with going to court over this dispute, remaining respectful throughout will make all of the difference in how receptive a judge may be towards hearing out your case.

If they have agreed to remove the fence specify a date and get it in writing. If not, you’ll likely have to settle it in court. In this case it is wise to consult a lawyer to is experienced with land disputes. Be sure to have all the necessary proof including the a survey map and photos.

It is a good idea to address this right away to avoid Adverse Possession.

What is the etiquette for fence maintenance?

Taking good care of your fence isn’t just a neighborly move – it’s essential to maintain an aesthetically pleasing and functioning outdoor area. To ensure you can enjoy “the great outdoors” with peace in mind, be sure to regularly paint, repair, treat and stain the wood on your property line as needed. And don’t forget about pets who may leave their own special mark! If all this upkeep sounds like more than you bargained for when installing your fence try materials that require minimal maintenance so family time is reserved only for fun times (and not sanding or staining!).

Resources:

Washington State property laws regarding fences

Snohomish County Planning and Development Services

King County: Fences – Building Permit Regulations