Many homeowners assume that their property lines are marked by a fence. The fence was there when they bought the house. They may have looked at the charts indicating the actual plot of land that they owned, but they didn’t really study them and map things out. They just looked at the backyard, assuming the fence was in the proper position and made a decision.

Now, if you did this, you may be right. Presumably, the previous homeowner looked at the survey before installing the fence and then did so in the proper manner, keeping the property lines intact. If there is an offset, they respected that. But all of this is just in theory. If you don’t have records, you may not know for sure. What if they actually built it across the line and on your neighbor’s property?

Things can get even more complicated if you share the fence with your neighbor. Say you do the upkeep on your side, but they fail to do so. The fence begins to lose its structural integrity. Who has to pay to fix it? If it collapses, who replaces it? Can you force your neighbor to do the upkeep in order to protect your investment and your property value?

And, say you go to them and ask them to help, and that’s when they claim the fence was never on your side of the property line to begin with. They want to tear it down and move it. This is now a massive, expensive project that you never anticipated.

When you find yourself in a complex situation like this, be sure you know what legal options you have, especially if it becomes a dispute.