Fence Laws in Oregon

Eight tips to avoid/resolve a neighborly fence dispute

We don’t need Robert Frost to tell us that fences can be a good thing for neighborly relations. If you live in an urban area, a fence can delineate your yard, provide a backdrop to landscaping, keep the dog and kids safe, and keep wanderers out. If you live in a more rural area, fencing can provide boundary markers, as well as protect and contain free-range livestock. 
When you have a fence that runs along the boundary between your property and that of your neighbor, there are some laws that come into play allocating responsibility and defining what’s permitted. Where fencing issues are concerned, it’s always best to take a proactive, communicative approach, letting your neighbor know well in advance if you have fence ideas that will affect them, and seeking their input. 
Some general Oregon fence rules to keep in mind:

Who pays for a fence?

Where a fence is on the property line between you and your neighbor, the law states that expenses should be shared for installation and repair. If a dispute arises, the party who pays for the fence is entitled to sue the non-paying neighbor for their half of the costs.

What if my neighbor doesn’t repair damage to their side of the fence?

You can bring an action against your neighbor to compel them to make repairs to a shared fence, or you may make needed repairs yourself and bring an action against your neighbor to pay for it. If making repairs requires being on your neighbor’s property, it’s wise to provide advance written notice, including why this is necessary.

Can I take down an existing fence?

If you and your neighbor agree to the removal of an existing fence, you may take it down and split the costs. If you want to remove all or part of a boundary-line fence, you must let your neighbor know at least six months ahead of time, in writing. If your neighbor objects to removal of the fence, they have the option of paying you for the cost of the fence, at a rate you both agree to.

Who is responsible for gates?

Where a gate opens from your property into your neighbor’s, both sides are free to use it for access to each other’s yard, but are responsible for keeping the gate closed and not allowing pets or children to get out. If there is any damage caused by leaving the gate open, the person at fault may be liable for double damages.

What if my neighbor’s tree hangs over the fence to my side?

If the trunk of the tree is fully on your neighbor’s property, it’s their tree. But responsibility for trimming branches and preventing hazards is determined by which side of the property line the branches are on. If branches hang over the fence onto your side, you are free to trim them back as far as the fence, no more, and you can’t cut anything so drastically that would cause harm to the tree.

What happens if a fence is built on the wrong side of a property line?

If you build a fence inadvertently (in good faith) on your neighbor’s side of the boundary, or if an existing fence is discovered to be over the line, you have one year from realization of the error to take the fence down and move it to the proper boundary, and you are permitted to go onto your neighbor’s property to do so. The owner of the property where the fence is located may not remove the fence themselves until after a year has passed. 

If I have to sue my neighbor over a fence issue, can I recover attorney’s fees?


Are there other rules relating to fences I should know about?

Most cities and municipalities have their own local rules. For example, Portland requires that you get a building permit if your fence is higher than seven feet. There may be additional restrictions that apply to your specific community.
If you need advice on how to handle a neighbor dispute, talk to a real estate lawyer in your area. For more information on this area, check out our overview of real estate laws.

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