Iowa Property: Is The Fence You Or Your Neighbors Responsibility?
Getting along with... or at least having neighbors who you respect and respect you back, can go a long way in making your life a lot easier. This is even more important if you share a fence or you have plants/trees that grow near each other's property line. If you have neighbors who live pretty close to you, it's possible you have a fence that divides your property.
Sadly, neighbors existing in cohesion isn't always the case. Sometimes neighbors don't get along and disputes happen. These disputes are so common that Iowa has created and passed plenty of statutes on fences that run along property lines.
Some statutes are so specific, they have been made regarding "hedge fences." These statutes state how often they must be trimmed, and how high they can be. There are also statutes for "spite fences." These are fences that are made to basically annoy your neighbor, according to Find Law.
If you and your neighbor have a fence that divides your property in Iowa, who's technically responsible for it?
One of the reasons I wanted to figure out the answer to this question is my backyard is fully fenced. On the sides of the property, we share a fence with both the neighbor to the north and south. These fences would fall into Iowa's law of boundary fences.
Iowa Code § 359A.18. states that
Any fence built, whether on agricultural or urban land, must be lawful. Lawful fences may be built with rails, boards, barbed wires, steel wires, or any other kind of fence which fence viewers consider to be equivalent to a lawful fence. Often, the location of the fence may dictate the type of fence allowed due to safety and aesthetic purposes.
According to Find Law, "Boundary fences/Partition fences are jointly maintained if one owner makes a written request for a boundary fence." It turns out, you and your neighbor are both on the hook for fence maintenance. If there is a dispute, the property owners need to submit the issues to a "fence viewer" for a hearing.
Iowa Realtors says a “fence viewer” is a township trustee with the power to determine fence-related controversies that arise under the Iowa Code." They have the power to decide any controversies that arise.
It turns out that if you and your neighbor share a fence, most of the time it is both of your jobs to maintain the fence. There are instances in which livestock is involved where someone from Iowa would not be required to help maintain a fence.
Iowa State University says "A landowner owning no livestock can require an adjacent landowner to erect and maintain a partition fence. Likewise, a landowner owning livestock can require his non-livestock-owning neighbor to contribute to erecting and maintaining the partition fence."
Honestly...after all of this fence research, I think I would rather try and just get along with my neighbors than ever deal with a fence dispute. This seems like it would be a complete nightmare to have to go through.