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Property Line and Fence Laws in Washington, D.C.

In Washington D.C., the nation's capital, politicians discuss making compromises with their "neighbors across the aisle" with varying success. Similarly, the residents of D.C. strive to get along with their neighbors. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to be on good terms and neighbor disputes often arise over such issues as fences, trees, and other property line problems.

Property Line and Fence Laws in the District of Columbia

Prior to resolving any fence law issues, the exact location of the property line itself may be in dispute. If this is in question, then you can consider conducting a survey to determine where your property actually ends.

The District of Columbia does not have specific fence laws. However, if you have a fence law dispute, you will look to common law principles for guidance on how to address it. For instance, it is generally accepted that fences built along a property line are owned by both property owners when both owners use the fence, unless they agree otherwise.

Fences are not the only things that affect property line issues. Boundary markers are physical robust entities that identify land boundaries. In the District of Columbia, the law prohibits you from destroying any boundary marker including any stone, pillar, or tree.

Tree Laws in the District of Columbia

Discussions about the location of trees and trimming them are another common area of neighbor disputes. Trimming trees up to the boundary line is typical protocol, but the law favors getting your neighbor's permission and proceeding with caution. It is unlawful to damage someone's tree or maliciously damage a boundary tree; you can face imprisonment and/or fines for doing so.

District of Columbia Property Line and Fence Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to the District of Columbia property line and fence laws, including links to important code sections.


Boundary Markers

It is illegal for an individual to:

  • Maliciously cut down, destroy or remove any boundary tree, stone, or other marker or monument; or
  • Erase or remove any inscription on either your property or another's property even though such boundary or boundary trees should stand within your property.

The penalty: fines and imprisonment for not more than 180 days.

Tree Damages

  • It is illegal to top, cut down, remove, wound, destroy, damage, or otherwise cause injury to someone's tree, vine, bush or shrub.
  • If you injury a tree and the tree is 55 inches or greater in circumference when measured at a height of four and one half feet, then you must either pay a fine or be incarcerated for not more than 90 days or you get both the fine and incarceration.
  • For vines, bushes, or shrubs: you must pay a fine or be incarcerated for not more than 30 days or both.

Criminal Fines

  • Destruction of physical markers: $1000
  • Tree damage: $500
  • Vine/bush/shrub damage: $250

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

District of Columbia Property and Real Estate Laws: Related Resources

Free D.C. Property Line Case Review

If you can't agree with your neighbor about issues related to D.C. property line and fence laws, then you will likely want to resolve the disputes right away. Your property values and peace of mind may be at stake. Talk to an experienced real estate attorney and get a free case review today.

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