bad fences make anxious neighbors
February 20, 2021 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Our neighbors built a fence that encroaches on our property. I'm wondering how much it will cost to move the fence.

The encroaching portion of the fence is about 50 feet, there are no concrete postholes. It's a simple wood-slat backyard privacy fence, about 6' high. It was put in about a year ago, and is in good shape. We are in the United States, average cost of living area. There are no HOA issues.

So assuming they can just use the same fence materials, it's just the cost of labor of uninstalling and then installing. I imagine it's not cheap, but I don't know if we're talking $1000 or $5000, and would like to know what ballpark we're in.
posted by skewed to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 50 feet of fence without no concrete posts? Nearly free to remove and it'd be less than $1000, I bet, even with proper concrete footings. You might even be able to re-use material depending on how it was put together.
posted by amanda at 4:03 PM on February 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on how deep do the fence posts go, it's the labor of drilling those holes, not the material cost of the fence, that will be the major factor. You also need to factor permit costs, and specific types of wood. Just a figure, assuming you can recycle most of the existing fence material? About 1000-1200.

I assume you have the land re-surveyed to make sure where the border REALLY is? If not, that'd be extra cost as well.

My figure is from the middle point of "$17 to 45 per linear foot" for wooden fence, taken as $30, x 50 ft = 1500. Actual lumber cost is $7 to 15 per foot, call it $11, so 550 in material, 80% reuse, -440 = 1060. Keep in mind that taking apart the original fence may be more labor intensive than estimated. So I'd err on the high side rather than low side.
posted by kschang at 4:05 PM on February 20, 2021

Best answer: We’ve dealt with several fence projects. Yours should take only a few hours with an experienced crew. Cost of course depends on where you live. I’m gonna guess $900, if no problems digging new post holes.
posted by artdrectr at 4:10 PM on February 20, 2021

Best answer: Augering will be your biggest expense, you’re going to have to wait until the ground is thawed obviously. A good crew should knock it out half a day including clean up. Edit:$800-1200 depending on your ability to know someone.
posted by geoff. at 4:28 PM on February 20, 2021

27 adjacent properties and what faces out to most of them looks wild. In my state I have to send a certified letter every seven years or the neighbors can try to take what they've been using. It's been seven years. I don't mind the gardens and compost piles but I do mind the fence so they didn't get the same letter.

You are worrying about cost when your neighbor effed up "about a year ago." Check your state. You might not have 7 years.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

Why are you assuming you need to pay? If they built a fence on your property it should fall to them to move it. I'd consult an attorney.
posted by citygirl at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2021 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Just a note, the neighbor has agreed to pay for the fence to be moved, I am just curious as to how much of a problem this is for them.
posted by skewed at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: To get a high estimate, I'd assume the cost is about 2x labor of a normal fence, if you want to take the old one apart in a way that it can be reused. Dismantling it + rebuilding it. Maybe they can pull it up intact, but I wouldn't count on it.
posted by slidell at 9:00 PM on February 20, 2021

I'm glad your neighbor has agreed to pay for it. I know of a case where a neighbor stole land from an old lady this way.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:34 PM on February 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

How far does it need to be shifted?
posted by flabdablet at 12:06 AM on February 21, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the estimates, makes me feel better about insisting the neighbors move the fence. They have agreed to move it, but have made it evident that they hope I will just let it stay if they get a letter deeding the fence to us. I don’t really want to own a fence, but also feel bad about putting the neighbors through a huge expense for a pretty minor encroachment (up to about 16 inches, where the exterior house walls are only about 10-12 feet apart to begin with). It was an honest mistake, based on some slight weirdness with the boundaries, and carelessness.

Mostly, I don’t want to have any issues we need to disclose and explain to future buyers, because we won’t be here long term. However, if this can be fixed for something like $1,200, I feel much better just saying this is a problem they can fix and we will all be done with forever.
posted by skewed at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Going from 3'8" to 5' between house and fence is a huge difference, like a 30% increase in space. I'd definitely have them move the fence. I bought a house and when we replaced the fence we had it surveyed and gained 12". Not as noticeable in the back yard but it was huge in between the houses.
posted by Mitheral at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

You're not putting the neighbors through a huge expense; whoever installed the fence in the wrong place did.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:28 PM on February 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Did the neighbor pay for the entire fence before, or did you split the costs, as is often customary for fences on the property line? There are consequences to a fence on a property line regarding ownership of the fence.

Get started on moving it right away: good will fades when it actually starts costing money, and a fence that is not on a property line is a disclosure item in a sale.

Getting the fence deeded to you seems specious to me. Getting a signed and notarized agreement with them acknowledging that the fence is not on the property line, and that they agree that the fence is not on the property line is probably more useful, and cheaper. It appears they want use of your property.

If I was going to get into a legal agreement with a neighbor over a property line and a fence, I'd get it surveyed beforehand.

Schedule some time with a lawyer, soon, and see what they say. I've had a property line dispute with a neighbor regarding a fence which was resolved without loss of property to either neighbor, but it was adversarial and technical.
posted by the Real Dan at 3:06 PM on February 21, 2021

up to about 16 inches

If the construction is just poles in holes, it might be possible to achieve a shift of that order without even disassembling the fence. Just dig a little 16 inch trench in the direction each post has to go, then incrementally shove the posts along to the other end, then backfill and tamp.
posted by flabdablet at 3:18 PM on February 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Did the neighbor pay for the entire fence before, or did you split the costs, as is often customary for fences on the property line?

This is a good question. If they paid for the entire thing, it might not be ridiculous for you to offer to pitch in on this. I mean, honestly, the cost of lawyers etc. can add up so quickly; this might save one or both of you money.
posted by slidell at 6:11 PM on February 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Long-story short, they built the fence without consulting the people who owned the house at that time. A survey was done for unrelated reasons, revealing this issue.
posted by skewed at 6:38 AM on February 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

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