On January 1, 2014, a new California law went into effect – California Civil Code §841. The law concerns replacement and maintenance of shared fences, boundaries and monuments.
Twenty years ago, when I re-landscaped my front and back yard, including replacement of the fencing surrounding my property, there was no such law in place to provide clear direction on sharing costs with neighbors. In my case, the lot was on a cul-de-sac and three sides of the property were shared with four different neighbors. Three of my four neighbors were amenable to sharing equally in the replacement cost. The fourth, an elderly woman, said she could not afford it at that time. Knowing that there was no law that compelled her to share in the cost, and not wanting to place any undue burden on her, I opted to pay for that section of the fencing entirely. Although I may have made the same decision today to cover that cost, the new law provides guidance for sharing information and dividing the cost among adjoining landowners.
According to CC §841, adjoining landowners are presumed to share an equal benefit from any fence dividing their properties and, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties in a written agreement, shall be presumed to be equally responsible for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence.
The landowner is required to provide the adjoining landowners with 30 days prior written notice that shall include:
- a description of the nature of the problem with the shared fence
- the proposed solution
- notification of the presumption of equal responsibility for the costs proposed
- the estimated costs that will be shared and the cost sharing approach proposed
- proposed timeline for the work
Local ordinances on location, height, etcetera, should always be considered as part of the preparation of the proposal.
While this law provides a clearer path to resolve differences, the adjoining landowners do have the right to provide evidence demonstrating that imposing equal responsibility may be unjust for any of the following reasons:
- Reasonableness of proposed costs
- Disproportionate benefit versus shared cost
- Excessive height or structures erected for the purpose of annoying the owner or occupant of adjoining property
Certainly, when it comes to your neighbors, the “golden rule” always applies! Should this new law raise questions or concerns, seek qualified counsel for answers prior to proceeding with any actions.
By Randy Pickerell, Loan Advisor, RPM Mortgage Inc., Pleasanton, CA.