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Property Line and Fence Laws in Tennessee

The Tennessee landscape is marked by thousands of miles of fence. For urban and rural property owners alike, these fences are a symbol of ownership. Each of these fences is also a potential source of conflict for the neighbors whose property the fence separates. Common points of conflict include location, construction, and shared maintenance of a fence. If you find yourself in a disagreement with a neighbor, this review of Tennessee property line and fence law may help guide you toward a resolution.

Quick Look: Tennessee Property Line and Fence Laws

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

State Statutes
Disputed Boundaries When a court determines a disputed boundary, it must examine the following factors in order of priority:
  • Natural objects or landmarks
  • Artificial monuments or marks
  • Boundary lines of adjacent landowners
  • Courses and distances
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.

Tennessee Fence Law Basics

A fence dividing two properties is known as a "partition fence." Tennessee's partition fence law sets out the rights and responsibilities of fence owners in rural and urban areas. For example, partition fences are the responsibility of both property owners even if only one neighbor needs a fence.

Costs for the building and maintenance of the fence are to be shared equally by each landowner. That means you could be forced to pay for a fence you neither need nor want. However, when one side of an existing or proposed partition fence is agricultural land and the other side is non-agricultural land, the owner of the non-agricultural land may submit a written document disclaiming any responsibility for the fence.

Dispute Resolution for Partition Fences

With so many miles of fence in Tennessee, the legislature was aware that disagreements were inevitable. So the state provides for an out-of-court dispute resolution procedure to save landowners the time and expense of litigation. Now when neighbors cannot agree as to the amount to be paid for building or repairing a partition fence, either party can make a request of a judge of the court of general sessions to help resolve the issue. The judge will issue an order to three disinterested "freeholders" to examine the fence and decide the amount to be paid to the owner building or repairing it.

Local Ordinances and Zoning Rules Effecting Fences

In addition to Tennessee's partition fence laws, most properties are also covered by local zoning rules, building ordinances, and homeowner's association covenants. For example, the City of Chattanooga has zoning rules that regulate the height and location of a fence. A Chattanooga area homeowner's association can make even more restrictive rules governing color and placement of a fence, or not allow a fence that is otherwise acceptable to the city. So if you're having a problem related to placement or construction of a fence, it's a good idea to check with your local planning department.

When a Neighbor's Trees Extend onto Your Property

As a property owner, you have the right to control the land under your feet and the airspace above your land. This means that when a neighbor's tree hangs over your property you can cut it back to the property line at your own expense. Tennessee courts have held that no landowner has a cause of action when branches from a neighbor's healthy tree hang over their land. Be careful not to trespass onto the neighboring property to trim, place the tree debris on the neighbor's property, or trim beyond your property line.

Got a Property Line Dispute? Receive a Free Claim Review

When you're involved in a property line dispute, it's 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. Get back to enjoying your home and contact a local attorney today about your property-related issue for a free initial review of your claim.

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