Property Line and Fence Laws in Montana
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed January 23, 2018
You don't need to have a herd of cattle to want to fence in your piece of Montana. Your property represents a significant investment of time and money, so it's natural to want to protect it from unintended visitors.
When a neighbor interferes with your property rights, it can strain your relationship. The best solution is to talk through the issue. If that doesn't work, Montana property line and fence laws can help resolve many common issues.
Quick Look: Montana Property Line and Fence Laws
This chart highlights some of Montana's state laws relevant to property line and fence disputes. Your dispute also may be governed by county, city, or home owner association rules that are not listed here.
|Montana Supreme Court has determined a spite fence to be:
|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.
Fence Law in Big Sky Country
Most of Montana is classified as open range, which means that the property owner is responsible for fencing neighboring livestock out. This rule affects a surprising number of residential property owners that live in rural subdivisions next to open range. It is the residential property owner's responsibility to fence their property boundary if they don't want livestock from the open range wandering onto their property.
Even if you don't live on the open range, fences in Montana are the subject of detailed rules that define how neighbors are to handle their shared property line. Consider the following:
- Sharing Fence Costs : If your neighbor has a fence and you connect your fence to the shared side, you have three months to pay your neighbor for half the value of the fence you are connecting to.
- Refusing to Pay Shared Fence Costs : When a neighbor refuses to pay their share of fence maintenance, you can sue for costs and damages that result from the refusal.
Local Ordinances and Zoning Rules Effecting Fences
Depending on where you live in Montana, there may be city or county laws that impact your property dispute. 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 more restrictions.
Be aware that local code enforcement is not always automatic. If your neighbor's fence or structure violates a local law, you need to appeal directly to a local agency for code compliance. For example, if your neighbor constructs a fence that is too tall the local planning agency will likely not request its removal unless a complaint is filed.
Trees Along Property Lines
Don't let those overhanging branches, creeping root systems, or falling debris cause problems with your neighbors. The proper care and maintenance of your trees can go a long way toward keeping up friendly relations in your neighborhood. If you let your trees become a nuisance, you may be liable for damages. Here are some basic tree laws observed in Montana:
- Ownership of a tree is determined by the location of the trunk.
- Trees growing on a boundary line are shared property, and no single neighbor can decide to remove the tree.
- Trees that threaten to damage someone else's property can be declared a nuisance.
- If branches or roots belonging to a neighbor's tree hangs over your property, you have a right to trim it back to the property line (at your own expense).
- A person who trims a tree belonging to another may be liable for damages if the tree is injured or killed.
Montana Doesn't Allow Spite Fences
A Montana man built a fence from old abandoned cars because he was mad at his neighbor for complaining about the state of his property. This is known as a spite fence, and the Montana Supreme Court says this isn't legal. No property owner has the right to erect and maintain an otherwise useless structure just to annoy or injure a neighbor. The neighbor injured by the fence is entitled to have the fence removed and seek monetary damages from the fence builder.
Have a Montana Lawyer Review Your Property Line Dispute for Free
Don't let a property dispute distract from the enjoyment of your home. If you have an unresolved issue with a neighbor, it may be time to contact an experienced real estate attorney. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights, and work on your behalf to resolve the dispute. If you believe your property rights are being interfered with, a local attorney may be able to help. Get started today with a free legal evaluation of your case by a Montana real estate attorney.
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