fences and property lines

Whenever the subject of fences comes up, we can’t help but think of an old The Far Side newspaper comic. It depicts a father and son looking up a tree, the former of which delivers this little ornithology lesson:

“And now, Randy, by use of song, the male sparrow will stake out his territory … an instinct common in the lower animals.”

Ironically, the pair are surrounded picket fences.

We don’t believe that Gary Larson, who created The Far Side, was condemning territorialism. He’s worth an estimated $70 million, and we assume he would be plenty nonplussed if we showed up at his Seattle estate unannounced.

At Compass Consultants, we fully embrace marking one’s territory. Defining the imaginary boundaries between neighboring properties is our job, after all! And if you want to make your property lines less ambiguous – and hopefully bar entry to trespassers while you’re at it – then you probably want a fence of your very own.

Just don’t start installing that fence right away. You need to exercise proper precaution so as to avoid building a fence on any part of your neighbor’s property. Otherwise, you run a real risk of encroachment: not a criminal act, but still one that can make you the target of legal action.

Here is our expert advice: before building a fence, commission a land survey. Doing so will inform you of the exact boundaries of your property, so you can make certain to build your fence on land you actually own. And once you’ve determined precisely where you can legally build fences, you’re only left with one important question:

How Close Can I Build a Fence to My Property Line in Sioux Falls?

This depends on where you live, as different states and municipalities all have their own fence statutes. The city of Minneapolis allows residents to erect fences “along or adjacent to the lot line.” The city of West Fargo says that fences “are allowed to be constructed up to the property line.” The city of Sioux Falls has decreed that “no minimum distances […] need to be maintained from the property line.”

If we only consider these three Midwestern cities’ ordinances, then the answer to the one important question is: anywhere on your own property, including along the boundary separating it from your neighbor’s property. But as always, you must exercise caution. Your own municipality may have different fence laws, which is why it is crucial to consult your local zoning authority before you begin erecting the thing that makes good neighbors.

Also, please note that all the laws in the world can only do so much to protect you from an irate neighbor. You may have every right to build a fence along the perimeter of your property line, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor will see things the same way. If they decide to take issue with the placement of your fence (and worse yet, they have a lot of free time), then they can do a lot to make your life miserable – both inside and outside of the legal system.

Here’s our advice. Speak with your neighbor before erecting a fence. See how reasonably they interpret your intentions. If they’re cool, then you can confidently build your new fence right on top of the property line (assuming your local municipality allows you to). But if they get a little heated over the prospect of your new fence occupying any part of their property, consider setting your fence at least 3 inches away from their property line. You’ll still own the land on the other side of it, but your neighbor will have less justification for grievance.

Would you like to commission the land survey that precedes any well-planned fence-building project? Then we welcome you to contact Compass Consultants today for expert surveying in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota!