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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
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Property line fence rules in Wisconsin

Resolved Question:

Property line fence rules in Wisconsin
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 6 years ago.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

If the fence is on the property line, you and your neighbor are each responsible for half the cost of maintenance. Wis. Stat., Section 90.03. "If any person neglects to repair or rebuild any partition fence that by law that person is required to maintain, the aggrieved party may complain to 2 or more fence viewers of the town, who, after giving notice as provided in s. 90.07, shall examine the fence. If the fence viewers determine that the fence is insufficient, they shall inform the delinquent party of the insufficiency and direct the delinquent party to repair or rebuild the fence within a time that the fence viewers determine is reasonable. If the fence is not repaired or rebuilt within the time fixed by the fence viewers, the complainant may repair or rebuild the fence and recover the expense of repairing or rebuilding the fence as provided under s. 90.11." Section 90.10.

There's nothing in the law that says exactly how "fixed" the fence has to be, but the fence viewers would have to agree that it's fixed, so you're basically looking at what a reasonable person would say. That generally means that it should be upright, without missing pieces, and reasonably sturdy. Take a look at 90.02, which gives the legal definition of a fence. All of the statutes are in that link at the top.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
How do I know which half is mine?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 6 years ago.
Well, the easiest way to do it is to simply hire someone to fix the fence with a signed agreement that you'll each pay half. Otherwise, either property owner can pay the full cost and sue the neighbor for the other. It's the cost that's usually split, not the fence itself. It's not really feasible to only repair one side, unless you're just talking about painting it, because repairs to the fence will usually affect the entire thing,
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
This fence has been like this for ever... The neighbor is just being an A** and I have the materials to fix it myself. So I need to know which half is mine... to the right as you're looking at the line or to the right facing my property?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 6 years ago.
The law doesn't specifically assign half the fence to each land owner. It just talks about splitting the cost. You could repair the entire fence and sue the neighbor for half of what it cost you. You can also try to work out with the neighbor which half you're each responsible for. You can also check the property records, to see if they say anything about the fence. Otherwise, the statute allows you to ask the fence viewers to assign part of the fence to each neighbor. Section 90.07. The fence viewers are "supervisors in their respective towns, the alderpersons of cities in their respective aldermanic districts, and the trustees of villages in their respective villages." Section 90.01.

Also, Section 90.05 says "An owner, or the owner’s heirs or assigns, are not obligated to build or maintain any part of a partition fence during any time when none of the adjoining lands is occupied for farming or grazing." So, depending on what the land is currently being used for, you may have a defense if the neighbor tries to force action on your part.
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Great! The property is in the woods, we no longer have cattle and our fields (rented out) do not border his property. I still may go out and stand the fence up but probably won't spend to much time on it. Thanks for the links
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 6 years ago.
You're welcome. Good luck.