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Property Line and Fence Laws in Florida

Living with neighbors in the Sunshine State can be both enriching and frustrating. Oftentimes, neighbors don't see eye to eye on important property issues. This includes disagreements about boundary lines, fences, and tree trimming. Read on to learn more about fence laws in Florida.

Fence and Property Line Laws in Florida: Overview

Property owners frequently have questions about "boundary fences," which are fences built on or near a property line to designate your property from your neighbor's. Under Florida law, adjoining landowners are under no legal obligation to erect fences dividing their land. If one landowner does decide to build a boundary fence, the adjoining landowner is not obligated to share in this expense unless it was agreed to in advance.

If you do decide to build a boundary fence with your neighbor and share the expense of upkeep, it's a good idea to prepare a written contract summarizing the arrangement. A written agreement prepared in advance will go a long way towards avoiding conflict in the future. A boundary fence contract should include:

  • The names and signatures of the parties
  • A clear description of the lands and the and location of the fence
  • The responsibilities of each party to build and maintain the fence
  • At least two independent witnesses and a notary

Florida case law also makes it illegal to build a "spite fence" – a fence built for no other purpose than to interfere with a neighbor's property rights. In Florida, a fence can be considered a nuisance if its construction was motivated by malice, rather than a legitimate purpose such as preventing trespassing or vandalism.

Tree Trimming Laws

It's not uncommon for branches from a tree to reach over a property line and overhang a neighbor's land. Florida has laws governing these encroaching branches. Your legal right to trim branches hanging over your property line will depend on the health of the tree. If the tree is healthy, you may, at your own expense, trim back branches up to the property line. Your neighbor won't necessarily be liable for healthy branches falling on your land. On the other hand, if the branches are dead, it's your neighbor's responsibility to maintain them, or possibly be liable for damage caused to your land by falling branches.

Florida Property Line and Fence Laws at a Glance

The following chart provides more information about Florida laws governing property lines, fences, and tree trimming.

Case Law

Boundary Fences

  • There is no legal obligation to erect a boundary fence
  • If one landowner builds a fence, he has no automatic right to contribution from the adjoining landowner unless there was a prior contractual agreement
  • If adjoining landowners buy land where a fence already exists, they are considered the joint owners of a fence and have joint obligation to repair and maintain the fence

Spite Fences

  • The erection of a fence can be considered a "nuisance" in certain circumstances, for example if hinders the use of a roadway
  • A fence can be found to be a nuisance if it was built out of spite in order to block a neighbor's view without serving any legitimate purpose, such as preventing trespass and vandalism

Tree Trimming

  • A landowner that removes a healthy tree from a boundary line without the permission of the other landowner may be liable for the cost of replacing the tree
  • If encroaching tree branches are healthy, the landowner with the tree isn't responsible for damage caused by falling branches, and the adjoining landowner can trim the branches as his/her own expense
  • If encroaching tree branches are dead, the landowner with the tree may be liable for branches that fall on the adjoining landowner's property

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.

Related Property Line, Fence, and Tree Resources

Consider Speaking with a Florida Real Estate Attorney

Disagreements with neighbors can be draining. If you're experiencing conflict with a neighbor regarding a property line, fence, or trees, you know first-hand how difficult these situations can be. A great first step is to learn about your legal rights, which is best accomplished by speaking with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer.

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