Is The Seller Liable if the Fence in Not on the Boundary Line?

Westcoe Realtors, Riverside Ca…This query was posed to us this week by a gentleman who having one of our agents assist him in the purchase of a home…and it is a good question.

Is the seller liable if the fence for the home is not on the property boundary line?

In a nutshell, NO…unless they knew it was in the wrong place and didn’t tell you.

In the case of a “normal” development, where the lots are generally of similar size and dimensions, and where a fence exists when the buyer purchases the home, it is reasonable to assume that the existing fence is basically on the property line. Most fences are initially installed by a professional fence company, and when done so, the company usually measures the lot, and installs the fence accordingly.

Does this mean they can’t be off by inches, or perhaps a foot? Maybe, but once the fence is installed, in most cases, if there is any issue or doubt about the location, it will be dealt with at that time by the neighbors involved. Therefore, if a buyer is purchasing this home years later, and the fence has been there for years, it is normal for all parties to think the fence is where it belongs.

Now…if the new buyer moves in, and for some reason gets a survey, and finds the fence off by inches, chances are the fence will just stay there. There are legal remedies for situations like this if someone really wants to go crazy, but you would need to check with an attorney, because they are extremely complicated.

However, if it is later discovered that the fence is off by a larger margin, and the seller knew about this and simply failed to disclose it to the buyer, then that is a different story. In this case, the seller will probably have some liability, although if the fence is still only inches off, it might be tough to prove any damages.

The simple rule of thumb is that for properties that have no fencing (large lots, acreage, etc.) the buyer should have the seller locate the corner markers as part of the escrow. Simply pointing out a tree hundreds of yards away and saying the lot lines are “somewhere near the tree” doesn’t cut it…get the property surveyed.

But if the home is one of many in a housing development, and the fences are already up when you purchase, then our suggestion is to roll with what is there, and not worry about inches etc.

Hope this helps if you are deeply concerned about fences and lot lines.

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