Property Line and Fence Laws in Maryland
You bought a new house and just settled in. Now your neighbors are complaining that your fence posts are on their property and they want the posts moved. Do you have to move the fence? Can the neighbor be forced to contribute to the new boundary line fence? Maryland's property line and fence law may help resolve common disagreements by explaining the rights and responsibilities of fence owners.
Quick Look: Maryland Property Line and Fence Laws
This chart highlights some of Maryland state laws relevant to property line and fence disputes. Your dispute may also be governed by county, city or home owner association rules that are not listed here.
|Nuisance Law||In Maryland, a private nuisance claim requires conduct that is sbstantial and unreasonable or which is offensive or inconvenient. Such conduct must also cause real, substantial, and unreasonable damages, or interfere with another person's ordinary use and enjoyment of his or her property.|
|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.
Maryland Fence Law Basics
Maryland doesn't have specific rules dealing with fences. Instead, the state follows the common law practice that a fence built along a boundary line is owned in common by both property owners when both use the fence, unless otherwise agreed. A property owner is said to use a fence when they "hook-up" to the fence with another row of fence, or keep animals in the enclosure created by the fence. A fence built and used only by the builder is that person's sole property. When you purchase a new home, you take a property with an existing fence built and used by prior owners. Simply put, if you buy a property with a co-owned fence, you likely need to continue your maintenance of the fence.
Local Ordinances and Zoning Rules Effecting Fences
Rural areas in Maryland are giving way to new neighborhoods and wider roads. In fact, the last U.S. Census revealed that more than 85 percent of residents live in urban areas. Fence and property line disputes in these incorporated towns and cities will be controlled by local rules set out in zoning rules, building codes and city ordinances. These rules typically regulate the height of and materials used in a fence. However, if your home is in a designated historic district you will have to abide by the decision of the local review board when adding or modifying your fence.
Maryland Spite Fence Law
A fence built out of malice is commonly referred to as a spite fence and is usually governed by nuisance law principles. A balancing test will be applied to weigh the negative effect on the aggrieved landowner's use and enjoyment of their property against the value of the structure to the fence owner. Spite fences may also be governed by local ordinances, zoning codes, or homeowner's association regulations.
Trees Along Property Lines
Overhanging branches, invasive root systems, and falling debris can all cause tensions between neighbors. Under Maryland law, you are responsible for the proper care and maintenance of your trees and, if they become a nuisance, you may be liable for damages. Here are some other basic tree laws observed in Maryland:
- maintain your trees in such manner that they do not damage the property of another;
- if branches or roots belonging to a neighbor's tree extend over your property, you have a right to trim them back to the property line;
- you may be liable for treble (three times) damages if you injure or kill a neighbor's tree;
- ownership of a tree is determined by the location of the trunk; and
- trees located on a boundary line are considered joint property, and no single neighbor can decide to remove the tree.
Get Professional Legal Help with a Property Line Dispute
Disputes with neighbors can become very emotional and difficult to resolve. Usually both neighbors will want the final word on a matter affecting a common boundary. If you're in such a dispute and talks are breaking down, you may want to consider speaking with a local real estate attorney to learn more about your rights under the law.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.