For landowners with properties that share fences and other boundaries there is a new law going into effect on January 1, 2014.
According to the new law, Assembly Bill 1404 (codified as Cal. Civil Code § 841), landowners share an equal benefit of fencing and are equally responsible for the cost of construction, maintenance, or replacement, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing.
30-day prior written notices to all affected adjoining landowners are required for any intent to incur costs regarding a fence. The notice must include:
- A notice of the presumption of equal responsibility for the reasonable costs of construction, maintenance, or necessary replacement of the fence
- A description of the nature of the problem with the shared fence
- The proposed solution for the problem
- The estimated construction or maintenance costs to address the problem
- The proposed cost sharing approach
- The proposed timeline for addressing the problem
An adjoining landowner can dispute the notice by demonstrating with evidence that imposing equal responsibility would be unjust. To determine if equal responsibility is unjust, the court considers:
- Whether the financial burden on one landowner is substantially disproportionate to the benefit conferred upon that landowner by the fence
- Whether the cost of the fence would exceed the difference in the value of the property before and after its installation
- Whether the financial burden to one landlord would impose an undue financial hardship given that party’s financial circumstances as demonstrated by reasonable proof
- The reasonableness of a particular construction or maintenance project, including the extent to which the costs appear to be unnecessary, excessive, or the result of one landowner’s personal aesthetic, architectural, or other preferences
- Any other equitable factors appropriate under the circumstance
This law does not apply to a city, county, political subdivision, public body, or public agency.