Who Legally Owns the Fence Between Two Houses in Maine?
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.
Did you know that Maine is recognized as the most rural state in the whole dang country? (according to the last U.S. Census) More than sixty percent of it's residents live outside of cities. Even with all that open space, neighbors in Maine still bicker over property line issues. It's a tale as old as time! If you're involved in an ongoing property dispute then you know things can get ugly.
A review of Maine's property line and fence laws may point you toward a solution.
According to FindLaw.com, if a fence is on two properties both neighbors are required to equally share in the maintenance of a common fence. (Of course there are exceptions to every rule.) The site states that many of Maine's fence laws are drafted with agricultural use in mind, this rule of joint ownership and contribution is often recognized under the common law to also apply to residential property.
Maine defines a legal fence as one that it four feet high and in good repair. It can be built from rails, timber, stone walls, iron, or wire. Natural barriers such as rivers, ponds, creeks, ditches and hedges also are sufficient.
So before you through the trouble of building, removing, or adding a fence, check your local laws for the legal height limits and appearance of a fence.
Maine has specific laws around "spite fences" which leads me to believe there have been plenty of issues in the department in the past. FindLaw.com states, "Any fence or other structure in the nature of a fence, unnecessarily exceeding 6 feet in height, maliciously kept and maintained for the purpose of annoying the owners or occupants of adjoining property, shall be deemed a private nuisance."
The site goes on to say that the focus of the spite fence law is on the mental state of the person constructing the fence. So a fence that actually conforms to local building codes still may be considered a spite fence if the neighbor is acting with malicious intent. This feels so subjective to me. How can someone prove someone is acting with malicious intent? Can't they just deny it? I hope that I never find myself in a contentious situation with a neighbor where one of us feels compelled to build a "spite fence", but hey, you never know!