Sharing a Yard With a Neighbor

Double your outdoor space by taking down the fence between your yard and your neighbor's.

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People spend a lot of money and time making their yards, decks, terraces, gardens, and gazebos appealing. If you have a good relationship with your neighbor and you both own your, you can expand your yard space by taking down the fence between your yard and your neighbor's.

The Benefits of Neighbors Joining Their Yards

Getting rid of a fence and sharing space with your neighbor has many benefits, including:

  • more yard space for both households
  • space that's large enough for sports or parties
  • a shared garden (and more gardeners)
  • better views
  • shortcuts
  • easy access to shared tools, furniture, and other resources that are owned by each household, and
  • a feeling of greater spaciousness in the backyard.

Legal Issues Applicable to Fence Removal

If you take down a fence, especially a major one, it's a good idea to have a written agreement with your neighbors, to clarify if, when, and how the fence will be rebuilt; how much it will cost; and who will pay for it. To avoid boundary disputes that could occur later, it's also a good idea to leave a few posts or something else to demarcate the boundary if the removal of the fence makes that less clear.

Also, be aware that removing a fence could affect a boundary dispute later, primarily because it could destroy an adverse possession claim. According to the law of adverse possession, if someone openly possesses someone else's land for the length of time specified in the state adverse possession law (usually five to 20 years), that person could claim title to the land. So, for example, if your fence is actually on your neighbor's property, it could eventually "redraw" the property line.

If you have no doubt that the fence correctly demarks the boundary line, this will not likely be a concern for you. If not, however, it's something to consider before removing a fence.

Finally, if you are going to share your yard, make sure there's nothing on your property that could be what's called an "attractive nuisance" for children. This means anything that is dangerous but that children would naturally be interested in exploring, like an old refrigerator, tools or building supplies, or an unfenced well, pool, or other body of water.

For more information about neighbors and fences (the good and the bad), see Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, by Cora Jordan and Emily Doskow (Nolo). This book explains the relevant legal rules about shared fences, as well as rules about attractive nuisances and easements and other permissions to use someone else's property.

How to Prepare a Yard Sharing Agreement

Before tearing down any fences, be sure you and your neighbor(s) agree about key issues such as when (if at all) the fence will be rebuilt and how you will pay for this. Use this Sample Yard Sharing Agreement as a model in preparing your own.  If you have a pool, hot tub, trampoline, climbing structure in the like, be sure to cover use of these items in your agreement, and make sure that you are adequately protected by your homeowner's insurance.

Sample Yard Sharing Agreement

This agreement is between VICKI and BOB ROBLES, owners of 124 Monte Vista Avenue, and DONNA and PHILLIP LEUNG, owners of 128 Monte Vista Avenue.

  1. We have decided to remove the fence between our homes to create more space for our children and pets to play, and to create a pleasant shared garden environment.
  2. By removing the fence between our houses, we do not intend to redraw property lines or create an easement.
  3. Either of us may decide at any time to terminate this arrangement, at which time we will reconstruct the fence. If one of us moves or sells their house, we may decide to reconstruct the fence then.
  4. We will reconstruct the fence in the same location, which is marked by a few remaining posts. If and when we reconstruct a fence, the fence will be constructed in the following manner: (Describe fencing materials, height, and so on). We will split the cost equally.
  5. Both parties carry homeowner's liability insurance.
  6. If one of us is injured on the other's property, we agree to indemnify and hold harmless that property owner for all injury-related costs that are not covered by that property owner's homeowner's liability insurance. We are not waiving our rights to make claims against that property owner's homeowner's liability insurance. We are, however, agreeing to not hold that property owner responsible for any additional costs beyond those paid by the homeowner's insurance.
  7. This agreement is only between the current owners of the homes and does not attach to the properties or bind any future owners of the homes. We will not record this document.

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