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Property Line and Fence Laws in Ohio

Early Ohio fence law was focused on controlling cattle and distributing repair costs between farm owners. It offered little help for 21st Century property disputes. So in 2008, Ohio redesigned its state fence laws to clarify who is responsible for fence building and maintenance costs, and when the new law applies. If you find yourself in a property line dispute, a review of Ohio property line and fence law may help guide you toward a solution.

Quick Look: Ohio Property Line and Fence Laws

This chart provides a summary of key Ohio laws relevant to property line and fence disputes.

State Statutes
Determining Responsibility for a Line Fence Equitable Shares Rule:
  • Applies to fences built before September 30, 2008
  • Balancing test applied looking at topography and use
  • Shared responsibility range from 50-50 to 0-100
Rule of Individual Responsibility:
  • Applies to fences built after September 30, 2008
  • Cost of building and maintenance belongs to owner who wants the fence
  • Compensation can be sought from neighbor if they "use" the fence
Rule of Equal Shares:
  • Applies to fences built after September 30, 2008
  • Must be a government fence where adjacent owner grazes livestock
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.

Ohio Fence Law Basics

A decade ago, your neighbor could force you to pay for a fence that you neither wanted nor needed. This is no longer the rule in Ohio. The "Partition Fence Law" revision in 2008 sets out new rights and responsibilities for fences that are placed on the division line between properties in Ohio's unincorporated areas. The law includes fences that have been considered the division line even if a survey later reveals that the fence was not on the true property line.

Determining Responsibility for a Line Fence

There are three "rules" for determining each neighbor's responsibility for a line fence. Which rule applies depends on when the fence was built:

Built Before September 30, 2008

Fences that were built before the law revision in 2008 are governed by an equitable shares rule. Each land owner is responsible for the cost of building and maintaining the fence based on what is "fair." The more a landowner benefits from a fence, the more they must pay. For instance, one owner may keep livestock and need a fence, whereas the other owner has not animals of any type.

Built On or After September 30, 2008

A new fence is one on a boundary line which has never had a fence before. If there was a previously a fence that has since been taken down, it is generally considered an old fence. Two rules govern these fences:

  • The "Rule of Individual Responsibility" places the construction and maintenance responsibility on the land owner who wants to build the fence. Although compensation can be sought, if the other owner begins "using" the fence after it is built.
  • The "Rule of Equal Shares" still applies to certain government fences when the land they own, lease, manage, or control is adjacent to land used to graze livestock.

Dispute Resolution for Line Fences

When Ohio drafted its new fence law, it was aware that arguements over fences were not unusual, so the legislature included two dispute resolution options for landowners. A complaint can be filed with the board of the township trustees. If a party to the complaint is not happy with the trustees' decision, they can request binding arbitration. A dispute can also be filed directly with the court of common pleas.

Is All Property Covered by Ohio Line Fence Law?

Simply because your property is in Ohio does not mean that Ohio line fence law applies. First, the fence must qualify as a line fence, as described above. Next, land located in cities, towns, or municipalities is largely governed by local laws not state law. The Line Fence Law lists the types of property not covered, including:

  • Lots (property) located in municipalities
  • Fences between lands organized into lots under Ohio subdivision law
  • Fences that are required to be constructed by a railroad
  • Fences subject to a written and recorded land owner agreement

Local Ordinances and Zoning Rules Effecting Fences

Most single-family homes in Ohio are not covered by the Line Fence Law. These properties are likely covered by local rules set out in zoning laws, building ordinances, and homeowner's association covenants. For example, the City of Columbus has zoning rules that regulate the height and location of a fence. A Columbus area homeowner's association can make even more restrictive rules governing color or placement of a fence sometimes prohibiting a fence that is otherwise acceptable to the city.

Trees Along Property Lines

Property owners not only own the land under their feet, but also the airspace above their land. When a neighbor's tree hangs over your property you can cut it back. But be careful! Don't trespass onto the neighboring property to trim, place the tree debris on the neighbor's property, or trim parts of the tree on the other property. If you recklessly damage a tree by your trimming activities, you could be found guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to $250 and/or 30 days in jail.

Got a Property Line Dispute? Call a Real Estate Attorney

When you are involved in a property lines dispute at home, it is easy for a disagreement to get personal. It is important to find a resolution 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 to resolve the issue. If you are involved in a property dispute, get started today and call an Ohio real estate attorney near you.

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