Boundary Line, Fences, Easements

How do you know where your property lines are? Many practical and legal questions can arise regarding property boundaries. Is a building or other structure located or built on my property without permission? Is a fence or wall located exactly on the property line? Sometimes a fence, wall or other structure is built by a single property owner, sometimes there is mutual agreement and shared construction costs, either way, a mistake about a property line can affect the sale, use or legal description deed or title of real property.

The cost for correcting a boundary mistake after a sale or deed transfer is much more than catching the mistake ahead of time.

Knowing the State Laws Always Helps

For example, in California Civil Code section 841, adjacent and property line sharing “coterminous owners” are mutually bound equally to maintain:

1. The boundaries and monuments between them, and

2. The fences between them, unless one of them chooses to let his land lie without fencing; in which case, if he afterward encloses it, he must refund to the other a just proportion of the value, at that time, of any division fence made by the latter.

Descriptions of boundaries in deeds and other legal documents usually control where the boundary is located, but there are many exceptions to the general rules. You can avoid some pitfalls how owners treat, handle and make agreements regarding property lines. Every

case needs careful consideration to determine how boundaries are initially agreed, used, shared, and how they are intended to be maintained over time.

Agreements for structures, use and maintenance of property lines should be put in writing, no matter how informal or formal. There are many tools for accomplishing this ranging from the survey, recordings, easements or maintenance agreements.

Each case is factually specific and a qualified attorney and professional are necessary. Don’t go into a property dispute without knowing all of the facts and carefully consider professional assistance before making a boundary agreement. Craig Sherman can help you with that. Call us today.


The idea that “good fences make good neighbors” has been around a long time. But, not all fences are good. Whether you have been a good neighbor, built a proper fence, or whether a neighbor’s fence, wall or tree hedge is interfering with your enjoyment of your property, there are multiple rules and laws that apply for each situation.

In the City of San Diego, for example, the stated purpose of Municipal Code provisions concerning fences is “to maintain adequate visibility on private property and in public rights-of-way, to maintain the openness of front and street side yards, to protect the light and air to abutting properties, and to provide adequate screening by regulating the height, location and design of fences and retaining walls.” (San Diego Municipal Code § 142.0301).

How local regulation applies to your situation is going to depend on whether it is a fence or retaining wall, what part of the property it is located, and the dimensions of the fence.

A row of trees or vegetation constructed along a property boundary for shielding or having a fence-like effect is considered a vegetated fence and doing so get around and avoid fence height rules is an unlawful “spite fence.” A vegetated fence is a “spite fence” when the main or dominant purpose of the fence is located or maintained to preclude another’s rights and/or harass and annoy a neighbor. When you create or maintain such a hedge or vegetated fence, great care

must be exercised to ensure you are not knowingly infringing on protected views or other rights of your neighbor.


An easement is a right to “use” land that belongs to another, as opposed to a right to “possess” or “own” land of another. California has long recognized easements as an important part of property law and as a way to ensure that fairness exists among landowners, particularly when a landowner possesses a landlocked parcel.

California Civil Code section 801 lists a number of type of easements but there are many exceptions to these stated easements. Making it more confusing, courts have additionally explained and created interpretations that expand (or restrict) the application of those stated concepts.

To know where your property lines are, what type of fences may be unlawful, or whether there are easements or other rights that benefit or impair your property rights, you should contact us to set up an appointment at (619) 702-7892 for a review of options.