Resolving boundary disputes in Ohio

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2021 | Real estate litigation |

It can be startling to have lived in a home or tract of land for a number of years and to realize one day that you don’t really know where your property line is. A new neighbor may question the incursion of your shed on their property, or you may object to a new fence they are constructing that crosses over into your backyard.

When it comes to boundary issues, it helps for the property owner to understand the fence laws of their state or regulations of the communities in which they live. While not all boundary disputes end up in court, for residents in Maumee and Northwest Ohio, it can help to have trusted legal advice to guide you through the real estate challenges you may be facing.

Fence laws in Ohio

Ohio fence law was originally intended to aid the containment of livestock, as well as to fairly divide the cost of repairs between property owners who were mainly farmers. Applying this antiquated law in unincorporated areas in recent years has meant that one neighbor’s decision to erect a fence between theirs and their neighbor’s property has had to be equitably shouldered by both parties.

The Ohio General Assembly passed the “Partition Fence Law” in 2008 to give relevance to fencing laws in order to alleviate the disputes that arose from the old law’s application.

Where a partition or line fence is a fence that is placed on the division line between two properties, the new law also includes in this definition a fence that has been on a division line that a subsequent land survey determines is not exactly on the boundary.

Application of the new law

The new law has added a rule of “individual responsibility” which applies to fences constructed after 2008, so that now there are three rules that will define the application of the law:

  • The Rule of Equitable Shares apportions responsibility of cost and maintenance of the fence by a percentage of the benefit there is to each neighbor.
  • The Rule of Individual Responsibility applies to a neighbor who wishes to erect a fence that has never existed before on a property line.
  • The Equal Shares Rule preserves the old law pertaining to governmental fences adjacent to land used for livestock.

The new law offers two avenues for dispute resolution of fence issues, through the board of township trustees, or with court of common pleas. While this law does not apply to most single-family homes, local zoning laws, ordinances and homeowner’s covenants specify fence construction.