Legal Question in Real Estate Law in California

Building block wall between properties

Hi Sir/Madam:

If the neighbor wants to build a block wall separated the two properties and I do not want to, do I have the right to object? I heard that if I object and if he still wants to, he can only build it on his side. It means the wall will not be on the property line, but must be completely in his side, including the concrete footing underneath. Is that true? If he obtains the city permit to build the wall, does that city permit mean my side has to bear half of the wall? If he build it on the property line even if I object, is that trespassing? Will the police do anything or what should I do to stop him from digging the trench along the property line on my side for the concrete footing?

Asked on 6/11/06, 12:51 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Cynthia Beckwith Law Offices of Cynthia Beckwith

Re: Building block wall between properties

Unless the fence is a "spite fence" (referenced in the previous response), you do not have a right to stop the building of the wall altogether. You do have a choice, however -- do you want it entirely on his property, or do you want it to straddle the properties. If it straddles the properties, you have a right as to the type of fence that goes in, but you have to pay for half. If it is entirely on his property, you cannot dictate the type of fence that goes in, but you do not have to pay for any of it, and you can require that it be entirely on his property. If you choose the latter, your neighbor has no right even to dig the footings on your property. Do not assume that the police will intervene (they hate to get involved in civil disputes). You can talk to Building & Safety about issuing a Notice to Correct (to move the wall to a correct location). Failing that, you may have to go to court to get a temporary restraining order. The fact that he obtained a permit for the construction does not mean that you have to bear the cost, if the wall is entirely located on his side of the property line.

The first step, and best bet, is always to talk to your neighbor before work proceeds. Also, make sure you know where the property line is (here in Southern California, we rarely do surveys, so we often don't really know).

I routinely represent property owners in boundary line disputes with neighbors. I would be happy to answer any other questions you have.

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Answered on 6/12/06, 11:34 am
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Building block wall between properties

You should check your city (or county) for local ordinances or policies. There aren't many state-wide laws on fences. A neighbor cannot build a boundary fence taller than ten feet without a good reason if the purpose is to annoy the neighbor (Civil Code section 841.4). Neighbors have certain responsibilities with respect to boundary fence installation and maintenance costs (Civil Code section 841).

After reviewing the annotations to these two statutes I would say (1) you probably have a right to require that no part of the fence lie upon your property, including the footings, and (2) if the sole or primary purpose of the fence is malicious and to annoy you, it is probably an illegal private nuisance. Otherwise, the neighbor's proposed fence design would be a subject for local regulation, if at all.

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Answered on 6/11/06, 6:28 pm

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