Utah Property Line and Fence Laws
Residential fences have a vibrant history in Utah, and so do fence disputes. When early settlers organized their towns into one-acre city lots, fences became an important part of the landscape. These early fences were made from whatever materials were on hand, including cedar, juniper, and even wagon wheels. With so many fences in Utah, disputes were inevitable, so the state responded by drafting detailed property line and fence laws.
Quick Look: Utah Property Line and Fence Laws
This chart highlights some of Utah's state laws relevant to property line and fence disputes. Your dispute also may be governed by county, city, or home owner association rules that are not listed here.
|Boundary by Acquiescence||In Utah, Boundary by Acquiescence is shown by proving all of the following:
|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.
Utah Fence Law Basics
When you believe your neighbor is starting to use your land, even if it just a minor thing like building a fence in the wrong location, you need to take action. This act is known as "encroachment" and it's a form of trespassing. Under Utah law, private land owners have the right to enforce their property rights in court or through private agreements.
Many state laws only apply to agricultural land. An example is the rule of contribution to a boundary fence. Although the law states that neighbors with a boundary fence must each contribute the reasonable cost of fence construction and maintenance, the land must be designated agricultural and used for grazing livestock in order to apply. However, this rule of joint ownership and contribution is often recognized under common law to also cover residential property.
Local Ordinances and Zoning Rules Effecting Fences
Since fence and property line law in Utah is a blend of state statutes, court-made common law, and local zoning ordinances and building codes, resolving a dispute can take some serious research. 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.
When a fence or structure violates a local law, you will need to appeal to that local agency for enforcement. For example, if your neighbor constructs a fence that is too tall, the local planning agency will likely not request its removal unless a complaint is filed.
Understanding Utah's Boundary by Acquiescence
Boundary by Acquiescence isn't a law found in Utah's state code. Instead, Utah's appellate courts developed this doctrine over many years to help avoid litigation and promote stability. Any long-standing markers indicating where property owners understand a boundary to be located mark the actual boundary, even if a survey places it elsewhere. Boundary by Acquiescence requires proof of all of the following facts:
- Occupation of land up to a visible line marked by a monument, fence, or building
- Mutual acquiescence or acceptance in that line as the property boundary
- For more than 20 years
- By adjoining land owners
The property owners don't need to formally agree that a monument marks the property boundary; acceptance or acquiescence is sufficient. This is shown by the actions of the property owners toward the location of the boundary. Finally, the disputed property must be occupied (by a fence or garden) or used, not simply claimed.
Trees Along Property Lines
Landscaping is a source of great pride for many home owners. However, those overhanging branches, creeping root systems, and falling leaves can aggravate your neighbors. Although Utah law requires you to maintain your landscaping in a hazard-free manner, you are not required to trim branches that hang over a fence line.
Neighbors can trim offending limbs away from their property, but no further. If the tree is killed or significantly damaged by the trimming, you may be liable for damages amounting to three times the cost of the tree. And if a tree trunk is growing on the property line, it is owned by both neighbors and all decision about the tree must be made together.
Dispute Resolution with Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman
Taking a neighbor to court is not your only option for resolving a property dispute. Utah's Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman is a neutral, non-partisan agency that helps residents understand and protect their rights to property ownership and use, and helps resolve disputes. The Ombudsman handles disputes between the state and residential property owners, as well as those between private parties. Services include:
- Advisory Opinions: Property owners, developers, government agencies, and other parties may request an Advisory Opinion. An Opinion thoroughly evaluates the facts, and reaches a legal conclusion based on an application of existing laws.
- Mediation/Arbitration: Free mediation and arbitration services are available to property owners whose property rights are being taken by the State.
- Land Use Training: Informational programs geared toward citizen groups. Training is provided to further the Utah Legislature's desire that citizens be informed about property rights and land use regulation.
Get Legal Help with a Property Line Dispute
The emotional and legal aspects of property line dispute are complicated. It's natural to want to control your land, but when a decision affects a common interest, compromises may need to be made. If you're struggling with a property line dispute, it may be time to contact an experience real estate attorney. Find out more about how Utah law applies to your facts by contacting a Utah real estate attorney.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
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