Property Line and Fence Laws in Georgia
As a property owner in Georgia, you have the right to exclude people and things from your land. This right extends to encroaching fences and your neighbor's branches. Given the close proximity of homes in neighborhoods across Georgia, property line issues are not uncommon. When property disputes arise, talking things over with your neighbor can be the quickest solution. A legal solution may also be sought under Georgia's property line and fence laws.
Quick Look: Georgia Property Line and Fence Laws
This chart provides a summary of key Georgia laws relevant to property line and fence disputes.
|Remedies for Encroachment||When a neighbor place a structure that intrudes on (or over) your land, you can:
|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.
Fence Law in Georgia
Fence disputes typically concern building or maintenance issues, including the cost; who should pay and how much; and the type or height of the fence. This is particularly true when only one neighbor wants or need the fence. Although Georgia does not have laws specifically addressing fences, many related issues fall under state laws on easements, trespass, nuisance, and property damage. Specific issues with fence construction and design are controlled by local codes and regulations.
Despite the absence of law directly on point, a fence placed on the property or boundary line between two or more properties is understood to be jointly owned by the neighbors. Therefore, no one neighbor can remove or modify an existing fence without the other neighbor's permission.
Local Rules and Fence Disputes
Homeowners can take great pride in the outer appearance of their homes and the surrounding landscaping. However, local laws and home owners' association (HOA) rules often have a great deal of control over the construction, appearance, and maintenance of fences. For example, HOAs limit the colors you can paint your fence, while local zoning rules limit a fence's height. Applying these rules will determine if a fence is compliant with the law.
Trees Along Property Lines
Georgia loves its trees! Many cities, such as Savannah and Georgia, have local rules that may affect your ability to trim back or remove trees on your property. Here are some of the legal considerations of owning trees:
- You maintain your trees in such manner that they do not damage the property of another
- When branches or roots belonging to a neighbor's tree hangs over your property, you have a right to trim it back to the property line.
- If you damage the structure of a neighbor's tree, you may be liable for damages.
- Trees located on a boundary line are considered joint property, and no single neighbor can decide to remove the tree.
Spite Fences in Georgia
When a dispute escalates, neighbors start saying and doing things simply to upset the other person. For example, a fence may be built with the primary purpose of annoying a neighbor. This is commonly referred to as a "spite fence." Although there is no specific law against these structures, Georgia common law supports spite fence litigation.
In the classic Georgia case of Hornsby v. Smith (1941), the plaintiff successfully sued her neighbor for constructing an eight-foot solid wood fence between their properties. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the owner of land could not erect a fence that injured his neighbor for no useful purpose, but solely to hurt his neighbor.
Get Legal Help with Your Georgia Property Line Dispute
Property disputes are a delicate matter. Your home is a major financial investment that often has significant emotional attachment. This make can make discussions about one's property potentially volatile. When you are unable to talk through your differences, you may want to contact an experienced real estate attorney. Take that first step today and find a Georgia real estate attorney near you.
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