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Property Line and Fence Laws in Michigan

A dispute with a neighbor about issues like property lines, fences, and trees can make life difficult. Unfortunately, these sorts of disagreements are common enough that most states have passed laws addressing them. Read on to learn more about property line and fence laws (including tree-trimming rules) in Michigan.

Michigan Property Line and Fence Laws at a Glance

Michigan statues contain provisions related to building and maintaining a fence along a property boundary. Statutory law also addresses a neighbor's right to trim tree branches overhanging property lines. Over the years, Michigan courts have shaped the law regarding "spite fences," which are fences built for no legitimate purpose other than to annoy a neighbor.

Michigan law also has empowered local governments to resolve disputes involving fences efficiently. The township board in each Michigan town is authorized to appoint a "fence viewer," whose responsibilities include determining responsibility for cost of construction, assessing boundaries, and resolving disputes related to damage to fences.

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

Statutes and Cases

Boundary Fences: Michigan Compiled Laws Section 43.53

Spite Fences: Kuzniak v. Kuzniak, 107 Mich 444, 445-446 (1895)

Tree Trimming: Michigan Complied Laws Section 750.382

Boundary Fence Rules

  • The owner of real property who builds a fence must pay for construction
  • If a neighbor begins using the fence to restrain animals, the neighbor shall compensate the property owner for his/her proportionate share of the fence
  • Each township appoints a "fence viewer," who is responsible for adjudicating disputes among neighbors regarding property lines, mutual costs for maintaining fences, and damages to fences

Spite Fence Rules

  • A "spite fence" is one built with malicious intent and solely to obstruct a neighbor's light, air or view, and serves no useful purpose or advantage to the landowner
  • A fence that is found to be a spite fence can be determined to be a nuisance that unreasonably interferes with the neighbor's use and enjoyment of his own property

Tree Trimming Rules

  • A neighbor has the right to trim overhanging tree branches up to the property line, so long as it does not result in irreparable injury to the tree
  • A tree on the property line is owned by both neighbors, and must be maintained based on a mutual agreement
  • A landowner is not responsible for damage caused to a neighbor's property due to weather or Acts of God, unless the tree was negligently maintained
  • Anyone who willfully and maliciously damages another person's tree or plant is guilty of a misdemeanor

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

Neighbor Dispute? Find a Michigan Real Estate Attorney

If you are experiencing conflict with a neighbor over a boundary line, fence, or tree, you know how frustrating the process can be. In addition to being familiar with the laws of your state, a legal professional familiar with such issues will be able to recommend a course of action. Find a Michigan real estate lawyer near you to get started.

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