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 land (aren't renting), you can expand your yard space by taking down the fence between your yard and your neighbor's.
Getting rid of a fence and sharing space with your neighbor has many benefits, including:
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 issues such as whether, when, and how the fence will be rebuilt 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 Attorney Emily Doskow and Lina Guillen, J.D. (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.
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 or the like, be sure to cover use of these items in your agreement, and that you are adequately protected by your homeowners' 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.