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Fences in Florida: When does a neighbor have legal recourse?

Fences serve a number of uses. In some cases, these structures can work well for everyone involved. In others, they can lead to serious legal battles. What if, for example, a fence encroaches onto a neighboring property? Can a neighbor fight the presence of the fence? Is there legal recourse?

Here are two common fence dispute scenarios that could occur when one neighbor decides to build a fence over the objection of another. These examples are designed to help illustrate the basic workings of Florida state law when navigating a fencing dispute.

Scenario #1

In this scenario, a fence encroaches within one neighbor's property. The property owner has voiced displeasure over the presence of the fence, but taken no further action. The property owner has not used the land on the other side of the fence for years.

Although the fence owner may not be able to hold the objecting property owner responsible for maintenance or other costs associated with the fence, the property owner is at risk for losing his property rights. The neighbor owning the fence could argue possession of the land located on his side of the fence based on the legal theory of boundary by agreement. If successful, the neighbor owning the fence could gain possession of the land.

The property owner could reduce this risk by having a surveyor mark property lines and provide the neighbor owning the fence written notice that there is no agreement as to the boundary, and the fence is encroaching.

Scenario #2

This example involves a neighbor that not only voices objection, but also provides written notice of the objection to the presence and location of a proposed fence.

If the dispute continues after this notice, it can help to hire a licensed land surveyor to mark property boundaries. If the fence issue continues additional legal action may be required. This could include hiring legal counsel to get a court order to cease the fence project while the objecting property owner's lawsuit proceeds to a conclusion.

Final notes

These two common fence dispute scenarios can provide some guidance for a number of fence dispute issues. However, property owners dealing with a disagreement over the placement of a fence and property boundary disputes are often wise to seek legal counsel.

The best way to handle the dispute will depend on the details of each individual case. An attorney experienced in these matters can review the details of your case and help you find a resolution that better ensures your rights are protected.