After much aggravation and harassment from my neighbor concerning my privacy fence, i was glad to find your web site. We have lived here in Wayne MI for over 20 years . My husband's mother was the one who got the permit for the chain link fence and now my neighbor wants to cut it down. The city said its on his property, but we have a permit on record, he does not. We put a privacy fence up and painted only one side the city said it looked fine, and signed the permit. Now they say I have to let my neighbor paint it. What about adverse Possession? We were here first? I hope you can answer some of these questions for me, because I'm not sure what the ordinance says concerning, and the city inspectors say one thing and mean another? Also do you know where I can obtain a land survey that won't cost me an arm and a leg? Thank You for your time.
Sorry to hear of your difficulties. You have several issues here. I am not an attorney (thank goodness) and can't voice an opinion on legal issues, but here are some considerations as I best know them.
1. Just because you got a permit does not relieve you of the responsibility to install the fence on your own property.
2. Just because the fence has been in the wrong place for years does not guarantee that you now own any portion of your neighbor's property contrary to some popular belief. There is a law floating around that says possession is 90% of the law. Considering how much tax we pay, I believe it is only about 50% anyway.
3. It is up to your neighbor to prove the fence is encroaching on him before action can be taken. You do not have to prove that it is in the right place after the fence is up. Let the neighbor pay the surveyor to prove you wrong or do the neighborly thing and split the cost with him.
4. Many inspector's, although meaning well, are not attorneys either and their opinion on legal issues carries no more weight than mine. They do have the responsibility to enforce the zoning and building laws, if they themselves understand the correct interpretation of them. Have them show you in writing the appropriate code. Read the rest of the section and all other pertinent sections.
5. Always get a permit if required. Once issued, it is your best protection that the fence you erect is approved. It can not protect you against improper location off your property. Most permits require you make a drawing showing your lot and the proposed fence location. When you place the fence on your neighbor's lot, you violated the permit, since no department would knowingly grant you permission to do that.
6. Your neighbor has the right to cut limbs off trees that hang onto his property even if it kills your tree. He also can paint anything that is on his lot, including your cedar fence.
7. A well-meaning fence expert is not your best source of legal information, although it is cheap. You might need an attorney. If the lawyer won't bid your fence project, I won't practice law.
8. Most surveyors charge by the hour. Find one that has worked your area and, if you are lucky, he has just surveyed near you and it will save you a ton because he doesn't have to do any research. He can start from a known location.
9. Sometimes you can locate your own property pins with a little detective work. Check your lot size. If you don't know, you can get the information at your county courthouse. While you are there, check the adjacent properties' sizes around your property. The secret is to find a property pin somewhere, even if it is not on your property. Talk to your neighbors. Someone may know where one of their pins are. By measuring across lots from a known accurate property pin, you can get a close approximation of where yours are. Dig with a shovel in that area and you may find it. Once you find one in the front of your lot, you can measure across to locate the other. Repeat the process for rear pins. Hint: front yard pins are located at the right-of-way, usually within a foot or two of your side of the sidewalk. If you have no sidewalks, the pin may be directly behind a utility pole. The poles for the main power lines are just inside the right-of-way.
Good luck with your fence, your neighbor and city hall.
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