Good Fences Can Make Good Neighbors

 

Welcome Back Readers,

This week, we are bringing you a couple posts for building a fence. (I apologize for the obvious terrible pun).

Under Nebraska law, adjoining property owners each have a responsibility to maintain fences between their respective properties[1]. There is no duty to erect a fence if both property owners decide not to have a fence. Because there is a statutorily imposed duty on each neighbor to maintain their “just proportion” of the fence, there are instances in which one neighbor may bring an action against the other neighbor.

As always, if you have specific legal questions, please seek out an attorney. This blog post is not a replacement for sound legal advice!

  • Building a New Fence:
    • If a landowner wants to erect a fence, and wants contribution from a neighbor, then the landowner must give written notice to the neighbor, requesting that they build half the fence, or pay for half the fence.
      • This notice must be given at some point before the fence is finished[2].
      • If there is no response to the notice, or the neighbor refuses the contribution request, then the landowner may file a fence dispute action in the county court where the land is located, after 7 days, but within one year of the written notice[3].
    • The neighbors, ideally, would then negotiate and agree about the cost and maintenance of the fence. But, if the neighbors negotiate, and are unable to reach an agreement about the equitable division of responsibility for the fence, then either neighbor may file a fence dispute action without the 7 day notice.
    • There is a fence dispute form that is available through the Clerk of the County Court.
    • After filing, the Clerk will also send out notices regarding mediation[4].
      • If both parties agree, the court may send the case to mediation.
        • Should the parties reach an agreement in mediation, the judge shall enter the agreement as its judgment.
      • If the parties do not agree to mediation, or do not reach an agreement in mediation, the case proceeds in County Court.
  • Minimum Requirements for a Fence:
    • Unless the neighbors agree otherwise, a fence shall be a wire fence[5].
      • Wire Fences must have:
        • At least four wires, of at least #9 size.
        • Secured to posts no more than one rod (16.5 ft.) apart, and also secured to a stake or another post in between those posts[6].
      • Any of the wires may be barbed wire. But if using barbed wire, each strand must be at least #12.5 gauge, and the barbs must be no more than 5 inches apart[7].
      • The fence itself must be at least 4.5 ft. tall, with no more than 12 inches in between wire strands[8].

*If another type of fence is desired, such as: rail, board, rail-and-post, pole-and-post, hog-and-sheep-tight, and other fences; the requirements may be found in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-115.

We will be back later this week with some tips about maintaining an existing fence.

“Love your neighbor as yourself; but don’t take down the fence.” – Carl Sandburg

 

[1] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-102.

[2] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-112.02(1).

[3] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-112.02(2).

[4] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-112.02(4).

[5] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-102(2).

[6] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-115(5).

[7] Id.

[8] Neb. Rev. Stat. § 34-116.

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