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Property Line and Fence Laws in Delaware

A nor'easter pounded your neighborhood, causing a branch from a neighbor's trees to damage a shared fence. Now the fence needs repairing and the neighbor wants you to pay half the cost. Since it was their tree that damaged the fence, aren't they completely responsible for rebuilding it? Delaware's property line and fence law helps resolve this and many other common disagreements. This quick review will guide you through the basics.

Quick Look: Delaware Property Line and Fence Laws

The following chart highlights some of Delaware's state laws relevant to property line and fence disputes. Be aware that your issue may be governed by county, city, or home owner association

State Statutes
Spite Fence In Delaware, a spite fence can be found when:
  • A structure in the nature of a fence;
  • is built or maintained by a property owner;
  • for no purpose other than to annoy a neighbor
Local Fence Regulations

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.

Delaware Fence Law Basics

Delaware recognizes the English common law rule of "fencing-in" livestock to prevent animals from damaging a neighbors' property. Landowners without livestock are under no duty to build a fence to keep livestock off their property. The Delaware Code also specifies that costs should be shared equally among the landowners who need a fence. When only one neighbor needs a fence, then the burden is on the livestock owner to build and maintain that division fence.

Local Delaware Rules on Fences

State fence and property line laws address many of the more general disputes you may have with a neighbor, such as trespass and nuisance. Depending on where you live, there are local zoning ordinances and building codes that affect the type of fence you can build and how you maintain your trees.

Local rules typically focus on fence heights, location, and building materials. If you live in a community with a homeowner's association, your property may be subject to even further restrictions.

Delaware Spite Fence Law

Although landowners have a right to build a fence around their property, that right is not without limitations. A fence built for the purpose of harassing a neighbor is commonly referred to as a spite fence. Although there is not a specific spite fence law in Delaware, courts recognize the common law principal that forbids fences built for no other reason than to annoy a neighbor. A neighbor who suffers damages because of a such a fence can request its removal and receive monetary damages.

Damage Caused by a Neighbor's Tree

A neighbor's tree falls on your garage roof and makes a big hole. Who pays for the repairs? You do. This may seem surprising, but most states recognize the rule that you're generally not responsible for any damage that your falling trees cause to your neighbor's property. An exception exists if you know or should have known that your tree or its branches create a hazard or are sick or dying.

Responsibility for Trees Along Property Lines

When neighbors have a dispute involving a tree, the first question to ask is, who does the tree belong to?

A tree growing on the property line belongs to both neighbors equally. These co-owned trees cannot be altered or removed without the approval of the other neighbor. If you trim a tree beyond your property line or injure the tree, you could be found in violation of Delaware's trespass to timber law.

Free Property Dispute Review by a Delaware Attorney

Conflicts over property rights are often made worse when personalities clash. It's important to find a resolution quickly before emotions and legal costs soar out of control. An experienced real estate attorney can help you evaluate your legal options and create a strategy for resolution. Don't lose any more sleep over your property dispute. Get started today with a free legal evaluation of your case by a Delaware real estate attorney.

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