White vinyl fence in private property

Connecticut Property Line and Fence Laws

Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC July 18, 2023

There is an old saying that “good fences make good neighbors,” but that is only accurate if those fences are located where they should be. If they are constructed a little too far in either direction, they may become the frontline of battles, in and out of court. 

Property lines, fence locations, and easements are the basis for many legal disputes and litigation. No one wants to merely cede property rights without a fight. That is why the Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC represents clients who want to establish what is theirs under the law. 

If you are involved in a boundary dispute with a neighbor, business, or governmental entity in Stamford, Connecticut—or in communities in Fairfield or New Haven counties, including Danbury, Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, or Westport—talk to us about our commitment to providing aggressive legal advocacy.  

What Are Connecticut’s Property Line and Fence Laws?

Real property has boundaries. They have been surveyed at some point in history and the legal description ensconced in property deeds transferred from owner to owner. Sometimes, larger tracts of land are resurveyed and subdivided, drawing new boundaries reflected in new deeds. 

However, boundaries are not always known definitively, and their locations are often assumed or changed by agreement between prior or current property owners without formal revision of land deeds. This can lead to confusion about easements, building of fences across property lines, and claims of adverse possession down the road. 

Some property disputes can be resolved with an updated survey, but who pays for it, and will the survey, the deed, and informal agreements contradict one another? 

The laws regarding fences and trees are straightforward in Connecticut. Trimming trees that may encroach across a property line may or may not be allowed. Damaging or killing a neighbor’s tree comes with civil liability. Ownership of a fence that needs maintenance can be done by the adjacent property owner if the fence owner fails to comply with the recommendations of officials whose job it is to assess the fence. However, the rightful fence owner can end up paying more than the cost incurred by the neighbor. Their property may be saddled with a lien.  

What Are Some Common Connecticut Property Line Disputes?

There are several common boundary disputes, beginning with two property owners claiming title to the same piece of property. 

Situations, where one property owner has acquiesced control of property to another for some reason, are common reasons for property line disputes. For example, there is a line of trees bordering the back of your property and your neighbor’s. You have mowed and trimmed around that line of trees for decades without stopping at a property line because it looks better when you do. The neighbor has not addressed that part of the yard for years, but now wants to erect a shed there. You dispute the neighbor’s ownership based on a claim of adverse possession.

Unwritten agreements by property owners are another common dispute source. For instance, when someone built a business next door, your property's previous owner let the business build a road over the property line for access to the back of the building. But now you’re the owner of the property and you want that land back or force the business owner to pay you for it. 

Zoning issues also cause property disputes, for example, when a business is allowed to build adjacent to a residential area. These also may involve the encroachment of a municipality onto your land, for example, if the city wants to build a park that abuts your property.  

What Are Some Common Connecticut Fencing Disputes?

Where to build a fence is always an issue. If you build it directly on the property line, you cannot maintain the other side of the fence. If you move it into your property, it is likely that your neighbor will maintain the land on the other side of the fence which means you essentially acquiesce that strip to your neighbor. 

Maintenance of the fence itself can also be an issue. A rural property owner may construct cattle fencing, but both you and your neighbor are responsible for maintaining it. Moreover, if your neighbor’s privacy fence begins to deteriorate and they refuse to repair it, you can request fence surveyors to assess the fence. If they determine it needs to be fixed and your neighbor refuses to do it, you can do it yourself, but you will likely need to sue them to recover your costs and damages.  

How Do Easements Work?

Easements are extremely common. They are used to allow someone else to use your property for practical purposes such as access. Most of the time, you won’t notice an easement, but that does not mean one cannot become a contested issue.

For example, adjacent homeowners may share an entry to their respective driveways. Technically, one person owns that piece of property, but the other person needs access to theirs via that piece. 

Utilities use easements to put in water, sewer, electrical, and gas lines. Cities use easements to construct public sidewalks or access roads. Homeowner’s associations may use them to provide services and access to other homeowners in a development. 

Disputes may arise when a property owner wants to use an easement for their own purposes, or when the property owner does not want to allow someone else to use their land for access. While it appears that the owner would not be forced to allow someone else to use their property, the law provides for easements against the owner’s wishes when someone else needs it for access to their own property or for the benefit of others.  

How Are Property and Fencing Disputes Resolved?

Talking to the party you are in dispute with should be the first attempt at resolving contested issues. Of course, being armed with copies of deeds and titles, commissioning a new survey, and knowing the market value of the disputed property is a wise idea that your real estate attorney can help you with. 

Your attorney may also be instrumental in negotiating an agreement with the other party. There are also alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation and arbitration which you and the other party can agree to enter. Again, your interests will be best served by an experienced attorney. 

If all else fails, you can litigate the dispute, presenting your evidence at trial and complying with the judgment of the court.  

Speak With an Attorney to Learn More

Property and fencing disputes are not always black and white. If you can’t solve them with negotiation and agreement, you need a real estate attorney who knows how to deal with the shades of gray. Litigation may be your only option, but resolution before going to trial may save you time and money.

If a dispute has arisen involving your property in Stamford, Connecticut, or in New Haven County or Fairfield County, let the Law Offices of Peter V Lathouris LLC walk you through your options. We are ready to help, so make the call today.