The California Legislature recently enacted a law that clarifies landowners’ shared responsibilities for fences and other boundary marks.

Ed Fuller

Ed Fuller

The verdict is that reasonable costs shall be shared equally because they are presumed to share equally in the benefit. However, owners may negotiate a written agreement altering this presumption.

The legislation sets out a process to be followed to benefit from this law.

First, within 30 days of incurring costs, all affected adjacent landowners must be notified. The notice of intent must include the following: (1) a notice of the presumption of equal responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence; (2) a description of the nature of the problem with the shared fence; (3) the proposed solution for the problem; (4) the estimated construction or maintenance costs to address the problem; (5) the proposed cost sharing approach; and (6) the proposed timeline for addressing the problem.

To escape being held for the costs incurred by a neighbor requires a court decree.

Among the findings a judge could make are: (1) that the cost are disproportionate to the benefits for the complaining owner; (2) that the cost would exceed the value it adds to the complaining neighbors property; (3) that it would impose an undue financial hardship; (4) that the project cost is excessive due to the proponents personal taste or requirements; and (5) any other equitable factors appropriate under the circumstances.

Ed Fuller is a real estate broker with San Roque Realty Inc. and president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact him at or 805.687.1551. The opinions expressed are his own.