Repairs and maintenance

4 Replies

Here's the situation.

The fence at my house blew down and we had to fix it. There is a empty lot behind us, so I reached out to the owner of the lot and let him know the fence blew down and we were going to fix it. He starts babbling about needing to get quotes and he lives out of town and I told him we didn't have time to wait and I would send him a bill that is wouldn't cost much since we were doing it ourselves. So we did all the labor ourselves and purchased all the materials ourselves. The fence was about 60 feet long. Total cost was about $1000. So I sent the owner a bill with pictures and receipts but have not received a response. What would be the next step in this situation? The property is located in Sacramento, CA.

Would I have to take him to small claims?

Techinically you're supposed to give him 30 days notice and an estimated cost for fixing the problem. Though that's not always practical and it sounds like it wasn't done in this case. But hopefully he'll do the right thing anyway and pay his share voluntarily. 

Here's how the law reads on the matter if you're interested: California’s Good Neighbor Fence Law

Good luck and hope it works out for you. 

Was the fence his, or was it jointly owned with your property?

Did you repair it, or build a new fence?

Keep in mind that no one is obligated to have or maintain a fence. If it was his fence, on his property, and you repaired it without written agreement that he would reimburse you, then you have given him your time and money for free. You can continue to send him bills requesting repayment, but he is of no legal obligation to repay you. In theory if it fell on your property, and he didn't pick it up in a reasonable time, you could bill for the cleanup, but that's a trivial amount not worth discussing.

If you built a new fence, it's kind of your fence now, but if it's on his property you've entered a new legal area. Then again, by sending him a bill your admitting that've you've given him the fence. 

I pay for the fence repairs myself on my properties in the neighborhoods that have issues like this. I'd rather be able to get it done right.

Huh, I was not aware of the particular CA fence law. I'd still argue he probably isn't legally obligated to pay as an empty lot gets no benefit from a fence.

Originally posted by @Derek Daun :

Huh, I was not aware of the particular CA fence law. I'd still argue he probably isn't legally obligated to pay as an empty lot gets no benefit from a fence.

 It's California law as of 2014.

And per law this is what should have happened:

(2) Where a landowner intends to incur costs for a fence described in paragraph (1), the landowner shall give 30 days’ prior written notice to each affected adjoining landowner. The notice shall include notification of the presumption of equal responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence. The notice shall include a description of the nature of the problem facing the shared fence, the proposed solution for addressing the problem, the estimated construction or maintenance costs involved to address the problem, the proposed cost sharing approach, and the proposed timeline for getting the problem addressed.

How long has it been since you reached out to him?  How far does he live?

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