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My heighbor erected a fence about 4" into his property. I recently erected my fence and put the post about 2" from the property line.

I then extended the fence (boards only) to come as close to his fence as possible.

Problem is he approached me and made me remove it "because its on his property".

We obviously don't get along and he is doing this in spite. I am just worried a dog will come through or a child and potentially fall in my pool or harm my child (the dog).

How can I secure the gap while respecting my neighbor's property rights?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Michael Karas May 2 at 10:24
  • A 4" gap you really think a child or Dog is going to make it through the 4" gap? The spacing on elevated decking rails is allowed to be 4" so I see no problem at all. Yes it may look like crap but there is nothing you can do unless you want to build a fence on your side. You can build a picket fence a ground a pool with 4" gaps and a gate and it would meet code requirements for a fence unless there is some bizarre local code requirement for a solid fence. All the thrash below is silly. – Ed Beal May 2 at 13:58
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    @Paul Your photo does not make the situation clear. What part of which fence is yours, what is the neighbour's, and whose is which area of lawn? in this case the picture is requiring a thousand words of explanation! :) A simple diagram would be clearer, or perhaps a photo from an upstairs window. – Graham May 2 at 15:58
  • I must be missing something here. There is an enormous gap on the RH side of your photo through which a child or dog could easily enter. What does the size of the rather smaller gap between the upright posts matter? – Nick Gammon May 3 at 5:53

11 Answers 11

49

If you are worried about access around your pool you should be extending your fence as necessary (beginning at right angles to the end showing in the picture) so that it encloses the area of concern. That can all be done on your property with no quibbles from the neighbor.

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    While an obvious solution, it's still possible thousands to build a parallel fence when $10 for a few pickets would do the same job. – JPhi1618 Apr 29 at 15:48
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    @JPhi1618, depending on where he is, there should be rules that say he needs to prevent access to his pool. If he doesn't have fence around the pool himself, then he's relying on neighbors to maintain fence which seems like a terrible idea given the neighbor he has. – Ben Apr 29 at 19:49
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    @JPhi1618 Unless local ordinances have a "connect adjacent fences" item the OP might have to run a fence the entire length of the shared property line to secure his pool. OTOH I wouldn't be surprised if such a thing did exist both as a counter to spiteful neighbors like the OP is dealing with and for aesthetic/health/safety reasons (a very narrow gap between 2 fences is a hazard and harbor for vermin). It's definitely something that the OP should check with his local zoning office/HOA/etc about. – Dan Neely Apr 29 at 20:58
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    @DanNeely I doubt it. Neighbors who both benefit from a fence should both pay for the fence. This is the crux of OP's dilemma. He does not want to pay for the fence. – Harper May 1 at 15:49
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    Not should - must. I don't think there are any jurisdictions anywhere that do not absolutely require that pools be completely inaccessible except through access via the house (and even then, in some places (Florida...), you can additionally require alarms and sensors on doors and windows that access the pool unless it is completely fenced in, even from within a fenced in back yard. – J... May 1 at 16:43
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Plant a bush in the corner. Something with needles or thorns should keep dogs and children out.

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    Have you met any dogs or children? :P – isherwood Apr 29 at 16:01
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    If things have gotten really spiteful the neighbor could apply salt and herbicide to all of the roots, leaves, and branches that happen to grow onto/over his property. – Myles Apr 29 at 22:12
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    Barberry bush was what I was thinking. I think it would stop kids and dogs. Those things are vicious – UnhandledExcepSean Apr 30 at 0:48
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    @UnhandledExcepSean then OP will come back a few years later asking how to eradicate all the aggressively spreading barberry that's degrading his landscape – cr0 Apr 30 at 14:19
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    That is good for you, and maybe OP would also have a good experience with it. In many people's experience barberry spreads through root sprouts in expected places and can quickly get out of control. That said it could get the job done and personally I think the more trees the merrier, but I'm giving a warning in case this would turn into a poison-fueled battle against nature for OP in the future if they care to contain this plant. – cr0 Apr 30 at 14:34
31

If you decide to go the full malicious compliance route:

You can begin to call bylaw on him - to the best of my knowledge, there are usually local ordinances about keeping one's lawn maintained. Eventually the grass will grow as he is unable to cut it. Refuse him access to your property to cut the grass, but tell him that you're willing to do it provided you can fix the gap.

Granted, this will sour your relations with your neighbour more and will take some time to fix your problem, but it may work.

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    Perfect username for this response. – Nate Strickland Apr 29 at 18:49
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    Love this answer, and the user name, but I don't think you'll get anywhere legally on that if you restrict his ability to maintain the yard. Pleasant thought though. For what it is worth (FWIW) I am not a lawyer (IANAL), and my guess is that you need the advice of a local lawyer. – J. Chris Compton Apr 29 at 21:42
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    @J.ChrisCompton Actually, Paul wouldn't be restricting his neighbour's access to his neighbour's yard. Paul would be restricting his neighbour's access to his yard. It's not Paul's fault that his neighbour can't cut the grass on his own property because of a fence in the wrong place. – Spitemaster Apr 30 at 13:35
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    @Spitemaster Yes, I understand, and happen to agree with you. The neighbor can of course reach over the fence and spray weed killer - hopefully that won't occur to him. – J. Chris Compton Apr 30 at 14:13
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    The problem is, throwing even more bombs at your neighbor is just going to dig his hole deeper. The neighbor has a deadly comeback: by now the pool is operational, so remove his fence. Now OP is up the creek, and is forced to pay full retail to erect a fence in a hurry! Now neighbor enjoys that fence for free, and sells the materials on Craigslist. Turning the tables on OP. – Harper May 1 at 15:55
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It is your pool. It is your job to guard it.

I imagine your state law or city ordinance is clear on that point.

You are missing an important point here. You are trying to use your neighbor's fence to protect your pool. It's his fence and he has a right to remove it at any time. He could remove a panel right after you go to work, and put it back right before you get back. That's his right. If kids got into your pool and drowned because he took down his fence, that's all on you.

If you think that example is absurd, he could easily put a gate or several gates in his fence, and refuse to lock them. That is his right, and you don't get to say boo about it.

He does not owe you a fence

I suspect part of the tension is that you are trying to get effective use out of his fence, yet haven't paid a dime for it. His feelings are reasonable, and you should respect them. You need to pause here, and realize so far, your conduct has been that of an over-entitled jerk, and his negative reaction would be one you yourself would be having, were the roles reversed.

Buy in

Normally when 2 neighbors want a fence, they split the cost of the fence. And most states have laws around how that is handled. I suggest you research that law.

Now, since this fence is already built, and you want to make use of it, I suggest pricing a comparable fence, so you know what genuine fence costs look like. You can do this on the pretense of doubling the fence, which is your ultimate option, after all.

Then once you have hard numbers, you can have an informed discussion with your neighbor about (instead of wastefully building two fences) "buying in" to the fence he's already built.

That's a bargain for you at $1 less than the cost of your own fence. However, if you are respectful, you can probably talk him into half the value of the fence. If he wants to turn down thousands of dollars, then clearly you've done something else to upset him pretty seriously.

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    Pretty much this. I don't understand where the issue is currently - if his fence is entirely on his land, then yes it'll leave a gap into your land, which is your responsibility to close... If that means you have to put a fence around your entire land, so be it, you've got a pool, you deal with it. – djsmiley2k May 1 at 15:42
9

If I understand your question correctly, the situation is like this:

Existing situation


All you have to do is close the gap by nailing a plank onto your fance outside your properties like this:

Suggested situation

This extra barrier would be in communal (Government or "Council" in Australia) property, so he could not demand you remove it. If he complains to the authorities you can say that you don't want to let a child through the gap, who might drown.


Having said that, though, it is not your neighbour's job to stop kids from drowning in your pool - that is your job. What if your neighbour added climbing panels to his fence so it could be easily scaled by a child?

What if he lets children onto his property, who subsequently fall into your unsecured pool, and drown? What if he gets a dog?

It is your responsibility, indeed, your duty, to secure your pool on your property, regardless of what your neighbour might do.


Edited to add

Isn't the distance between the fences irrelevant, if one has a large gap in it? See my take on your photo:

Picture of fence

While the fence is not closed, it doesn't really matter how close they are.

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    Why would the government allow the extra barrier stand on public land, rather than require the OP to build a fence on their own property? The OP is required to enclose the pool, but they don't get to build on public land to do it. It seems the neighbor would have as much right to remove this barrier as the OP does to put it up. We also don't have any indication that the fence is even built on the property line abutting public land, and a setback of even a few inches would thwart this plan. – Nuclear Wang Apr 30 at 13:56
  • If this is the situation you could complain to the owner of the communal property (town, county, estate management, whatever) about the gap. They will either attach the desired thing shown in red on this plan, or decline to do so. In the latter case you would then offer to pay for and install a plank or other barrier on their property acting as their agent, and point out that they might be legally liable for allowing a child or dog through the gap (especially now you have made them aware of the problem). – nigel222 Apr 30 at 17:24
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    @nigel222 Why would the communal property owner be liable for the OP's failure to fence in their own yard? They have no responsibility or intention to keep people out of the yard, that's up to the OP. Seems like a scare tactic with no legal footing. – Nuclear Wang Apr 30 at 18:24
  • Maybe they wouldn't be legally liable, but do they want to have to pay for legal advice and maybe defend it in a court? It's a ploy. Your offer to do the work free of charge if they merely give permission is the real point of it. They may just decide to be decent human beings about it (which is what the unpleasant neighbour is refusing to be). – nigel222 May 1 at 11:54
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    Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but where did this discussion about "communal property" come from? In the OP's question, I see mention of his property, and a neighbor's property, and a property line dividing them. Where in that picture is there any communal property? – dwizum May 1 at 16:24
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The simplest answer would be in my opinion, to continue your fence precisely inside the boundary of your yard, ignoring that strip. Leave that strip as your neighbor's unfinished property.

This solves your problem by giving you an enclosed yard.

This solves your neighbor's problem by not affecting their fence at all.

This gives your neighbor no say in your fence's design, as it is on your property.

This also means that should say, a child or dog become wedged between the two fences, it is your neighbor's problem to resolve, as they are definitively on the neighbor's property.

It may cost slightly more, but will save you in terms of removing hassle and worry, a trade-off I personally would go for.

  • The problem is it won't cost slightly more, it will cost a LOT more. If OP's fence is currently 2 sides (house on 3rd side, problem neighbor on 4th side) then this will increase cost by 50%. – manassehkatz May 1 at 16:27
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    @manassehkatz But.. so what? There is a swimming pool. If the neighbor has visitors who come over with children, they could walk across the invisible line and drown. The pool owner is legally responsible in many/most jurisdictions. – whiskeychief May 1 at 16:43
  • @whiskeychief I am 100% aware of the problem. My highest voted answer on DIY is on this very issue. – manassehkatz May 1 at 16:50
3

According to IRC as listed here the key seems to be 4". That is, unfortunately, exactly the size of the gap between the property line and your neighbor's fence. But since you do not need to have a complete barrier - i.e., anything less than 4" is OK, I would add a board to your fence to narrow the gap to 3.5". And then hope that your neighbor doesn't measure it. He knows your fence is not all the way to the edge, so hopefully you can get away with that 0.5" - which would get you legal for protecting your pool without having to build an entire parallel fence on your property.

And as Harper noted in his excellent answer, if you can work out a deal with the neighbor to pay for 1/2 the cost of the fence between your properties, he'd likely then go along with a full 6" panel between the two fences.

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    Since there's 2" on one side and 4" on the other, isn't there a 6" gap? – Mast Apr 30 at 9:07
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    @Mast Yes. 2" that OP can absolutely take care of himself. And 4" on the other - which is both the part on the neighbor's side and happens to also be the limit for pool fence gaps in most places. – manassehkatz Apr 30 at 14:11
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    Is that going to save the OP from a lawsuit if someone drowns? – Kevin McKenzie Apr 30 at 17:29
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    IANAL == IDK. But I do know that if he doesn't make the gap less than 4" then he for sure won't be legally "safe". – manassehkatz Apr 30 at 17:37
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    Seems sensible in that humans (no matter how small) have a hard time fitting through a 4" gap (about the gap through which babies start to be birthed) – Brad Apr 30 at 20:15
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As @PlatinumGoose suggested, a thorny plant on both the inside and outside would mostly deter any entrance through the gap.

In addition to this, you could use insulated stand-offs extending vertically along the edge of your fence exactly up to his property line, with an electric fence wire strung across the ends running vertically parallel to the edge of your last fence board, along with the appropriate warning sign.

The combination of the two should ensure that nothing but small rodents would clear the gap in the fence.

Whether this is permissible legally or with your HOA I cannot say.

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    Bushes as protection for a pool is likely not sufficient legally. Electric fence is fine for the dogs but not good for kids. – manassehkatz Apr 30 at 2:37
  • @Manassehkatz While an electric fence strung across the back of the neighbors fence would provide a good deterrent for dogs and not children just as you say, I was only suggesting a vertical run in the gap itself, between the inner and outer thorny bushes. Surely a child that belongs in OP's back yard would have no need to navigate through said thorny interior bush in order to escape the back yard through the electrified gap. Electric fences are non-lethal. – Hitek Apr 30 at 2:44
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    The basic problem here is that the gap is 2" on the OP's side (which he can obviously fill - he likely stopped 2" short so that digging holes wouldn't directly affect the neighbor's property) and 4" on the neighbor's side. It is that 4" which is a problem - bushes, wires, etc. - anything he puts in that gap will get taken down. – manassehkatz Apr 30 at 2:48
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    Sorry for obvious discussion in comments, but need to clarify that electric strip would run 2 inches away from the OP's fence edge, just meeting the neighbor's property line, leaving a four inch gap that an intruder would have to pass through without getting shocked. While it is true that the neighbor could trim said thorny bushes, it could still provide a deterrent even if trimmed to the extent of the four inch gap. – Hitek Apr 30 at 2:55
  • Interesting. I guess a lot comes down to "what are the strict requirements for safety fencing around a pool". 4" is a potential hazard, but is it enough that the OP has to worry about it? Or will it just look a little funny but be legally "good enough"? – manassehkatz Apr 30 at 2:57
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Your options are:

  1. Ask him to remedy the fence situation, explaining your interest and offering to do it for him if he's unwilling/unable.
  2. Go ahead and fill in the gap yourself without asking permission--repairing his fence for him.
  3. Address the hazard itself and raise a complaint with your HOA or town board over the hazard of his unconfined dog--accept mending of the fence as a resolution to this.
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    1 - They don't get along. 2 - Tried already. 3 - The problem is NOT the neighbor's dog. It is concerns about a dog or child coming in to the OP's yard. The basic problem is that building a full parallel fence is absurd when a short section to connect the fences would do the job. – manassehkatz Apr 30 at 2:37
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    This answer seems to ignore prior research by OP. – Mast Apr 30 at 9:05
  • The problem is that not having a complete fence is generally not a code violation no matter how you may feel about it. From a legal standpoint, the neighbor's not doing anything wrong even if he's being an obstinate moron from a practical standpoint. I think that the potential hazard (failing to restrain his potentially dangerous dog) is the best legal argument to compel him to finish the fence. You could also try to argue that it's an attractive nuisance if the gap is publicly accessible but this doesn't seem to be the case. – Network Effects May 2 at 15:36
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I can't see a location for the question, but the answers suggest USA, so this may not be directly relevant (although versions of it may exist in other countries).

In the UK, it's common for houses to have a 'fence clause' in the contract of sale. For example, at a change of ownership, the house comes with a duty to erect and maintain a fence of at least 4 feet high along the entirety of the property on the left hand side (when looking from the street) within some amount of time (eg. 90 days).

In the UK, confusion is common because not all houses have such a clause, and it's not always the left hand side, and the 'direction' of the existing fence panels doesn't guarantee anything either. Even if it has such a clause, it's often not rigorously enforced. Often it's a "shared" responsibility (or unwritten, which usually means "shared"), or sometimes it's set by prescient (ie. the previous owner put it in, so it's your responsibility to maintain it). Also, just because one side of your house does have a clause doesn't necessarily mean your neighbour on the other side has one on that side of your property. Some solicitors point all this stuff out when you buy houses, and some don't.

A slightly different situation also occurs in the UK with regards to extensions on semi-detached houses. In order to avoid a 'party wall' (where both neighbours own the wall and have to share maintenance by fairly gnarly rules), often extensions are built a few centimetres away from the boundary (eg. 15-30cm). This causes the wall to be inside the boundary, and so the solely owned by that side. It makes maintenance difficult (as you only have a narrow gap), but often avoids problems, especially when the neighbours decide to build an extension of their own and use your 'party wall' to do so in a way that you disapprove. Thus the 'air gap' is common on UK extensions, loft conversions etc.

So in short, in the UK you, or your neighbour may have a responsibility to put in and maintain a fence (along the boundary). Or it may be shared, or it may be 'unwritten'. The sort of 'cold war' situation with both neighbours building a fence inside their boundary are rare here, although I'm sure must have happened somewhere.

0

If the question revolves around meeting requirements for fencing off your pool, then the only solution is for you to finish off the fence on your property so that it encloses your pool.

This particular gap is irrelevant. Consider this. Your neighbor caves and lets you completely cover the gap (great). The next week, he feels spiteful again, takes down a panel of fencing on the other side of his property, and calls code compliance to report you. Since you have no fences between lots, your pool is now unsecured. You have no capability to fix the fence since it's nowhere close to your property, yet all the legal consequences will still be yours.

Since you are legally liable for restricting access to the pool, the only way you can be certain that you can meet legal standards is if the entirety of the enclosure is under your control (or is a shared fence such that you can perform repairs unilaterally).

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