Maine is recognized as the most rural state in the nation according to the last U.S. Census, with more than sixty percent of residents living outside of cities. Even with all this open space, neighbors still clash over property line issues. If you're involved in an ongoing property dispute, a review of Maine's property line and fence laws may point you toward a solution.
Quick Look: Maine Property Line and Fence Laws
This chart highlights some of Maine state laws relevant to property line and fence disputes. Remember, many disputes are also impacted by county, city, or home owner association rules that are not listed here.
Maine Revised Statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2952 (maintenance of a division fences)
Maine Revised Statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2951 (legal fence)
Maine Revised Statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2957 (contribution for qualified fence)
Maine Revised Statutes, Title 30-A, Section 2801 (spite fence)
In Maine, a boundary dispute can be resolved by:
|Local Fence Regulations||
City of Portland Frequently Asked Questions
Town of Bar Harbor Building permits
City of Bangor 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.
Maine Fence Law Basics
Maine defines a legal fence as one that it four feet high and in good repair. It can be built from rails, timber, stone walls, iron, or wire. Natural barriers such as rivers, ponds, creeks, ditches and hedges also are sufficient. Both neighbors are required to equally share in the maintenance of a common fence. Although many of Maine's fence laws are drafted with agricultural use in mind, this rule of joint ownership and contribution is often recognized under the common law to also apply to residential property.
Local Ordinances and Zoning Rules Effecting Fences
Fence and property line law in Maine is a blend of state statutes, court-made common law, and local zoning ordinances and building codes. When resolving a dispute, it's important to understand which laws are controlling. Local rules typically focus on fence heights, location, and building materials. If you live in a community with a homeowner's association, your property may be subject to even further restrictions.
Maine Does Not Tolerate Spite Fences
Maine's spite fence statute states the following: "Any fence or other structure in the nature of a fence, unnecessarily exceeding 6 feet in height, maliciously kept and maintained for the purpose of annoying the owners or occupants of adjoining property, shall be deemed a private nuisance." The Maine Supreme Court has held that a spite fence includes planting dense trees next to a neighboring property constituted a "structure in the nature of a fence."
The focus of the spite fence law is on the mental state of the person constructing the fence. So a fence that actually conforms to local building codes still may be considered a spite fence if the neighbor is acting with malicious intent.
Using Fence Viewers to Resolve Disputes
Most people have never heard of a fence viewer until there's a conflict. In Maine, the law provides for fence viewers to serve an out-of-court dispute resolution function. Their job is to determine if a fence is legal and sufficient, and inspect and certify repairs to boundary fences. A fence viewer can also authorize a boundary fence to be built on land other than the true boundary if building on the boundary is impractical.
When a property owner neglects or refuses to repair their portion of a shared fence, the other neighbor can complain to the town fence viewers. The fence viewers will provide notice to the delinquent land owner and give them 30 days to fix the fence if they determine repairs are needed. If the fence is not repaired accordingly, the neighbor may make repairs and sue the non-paying neighbor for twice the cost of the repairs, plus interest.
Trees Along Property Lines
Overhanging branches, creeping root systems, and falling leaves are frequent sources of tension between neighbors. Although you have a right to cut away branches that extend into your property, you can't significantly alter or kill a tree that doesn't belong to you. Ownership of a tree is based on the location of the trunk. Ownership of a tree is based on the location of it's trunk. When the trunk is entirely on your neighbor's property, you cannot significantly alter the tree without their permission. Plus if you injure your neighbor's tree during the trimming process, you could be ordered to pay fines and restitution.
Free Preliminary Legal Review of Your Property Dispute Issue
There aren't always easy solutions to property line disputes. The law can be complex and the emotions of the parties involved often get in the way of negotiating a workable solution. If you're struggling with a property line dispute, contacting an experienced real estate attorney can help get you to a swift and fair resolution. Get started today by contacting an attorney near you for a free initial legal review of the facts of your case.
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