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Property Line and Fence Laws in South Dakota

Living with neighbors is not always as harmonious as we would like. Next door neighbors must make joint decisions about fences and trees along the boundary line, and unfortunately it's all too common for these issues to be a source of conflict. Read on to learn more about boundary fence and tree trimming laws in South Dakota.

Boundary and "Spite Fence" Laws in South Dakota

Like many other states, South Dakota has passed statues that specifically govern partition fences that divide plots of land. South Dakota Codified Laws set forth the rules regarding building partition fences, and responsibility for their maintenance. The law also provides a remedy for landowners when a neighbor refuses to maintain a boundary fence.

South Dakota courts have also created case law regarding "spite fences." Various states have different rules about how a court determines if a particular structure is a "spite fence." In South Dakota, courts adhere to the "sole-purpose test," which means that a court will find a structure to be a nuisance if it's built for the sole purpose of annoying or inconveniencing a neighbor.

The following chart provides more information about property line and fence laws in South Dakota.

Statutes and Case Law

Boundary Fences

  • Unless adjoining landowners otherwise agree, all landowners are liable for one-half of the expense of erecting and maintaining a partition fence between adjoining lands.
  • Each landowner must build the half of the fence that is on the right-hand side when they stand on their own land, facing the property line.
  • Any fence that is agreed to by adjoining landowners is considered a "legal fence."
  • When landowners don't agree to the specifications of a fence, the South Dakota legislature defines a "legal partition fence."
  • If a landowner neglects to erect or maintain a partition fence, the neighboring landowner can issue a 30 day demand, and recover damages if the landowner fails to comply.

Spite Fences

  • Building of a spite fence can be enjoined only if it provides no "benefit or pleasure" to the builder, and instead is built "solely with the malicious motive of injuring the plaintiff by shutting out his light, air, or view."

Tree Trimming

  • At the state level, South Dakota doesn't have laws regarding tree trimming, although traditionally, landowners have the right to "self help" by trimming overhanging trees up to the property line.
  • South Dakota does place an obligation on landowners to trim weeds, trees, and brush back from township roads.

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.

Get a Free Initial Review of Your South Dakota Property Issue

If you're not seeing eye to eye with your next door neighbor about issues related to fences or trees, you know how contentious these matters can get. If you feel like you need further assistance after reviewing your state's laws on the topic, consider meeting with an experienced local real estate attorney for your free initial case review.

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