Installing a Fence Can be a Good Legal Strategy

You’ve heard that common saying – that good fences make good neighbors? Well, it turns out that the saying is true and for more reasons than the implicit privacy reasons at which it hints. Fences protect both the home owner and others from the consequences of getting hurt on the home owner’s property.
Home owners generally owe a duty of care to people whom they invite onto their property. For example, dinner guests and plumbers are owed a duty of care. Home owners may be legally responsible for injuries incurred by others if there was an unreasonable risk of harm that the homeowner knew about or should have known about prior to the injury. However, property owners typically do not have a duty of care to trespassers or to people who are unlawfully on their property. Yet, in many situations it is a good idea for home owners to take reasonable efforts to protect everyone, trespassers and invitees, from known harms on their property.
If your property contains any of the following then a fence is usually a good investment and a good legal strategy to prevent personal injuries and lawsuits:
  • A Pool: many local ordinances require homeowners who own a pool to fence in the pool because of the foreseeable harm to children. A pool is an enticing and deadly place for young children. Therefore, it is important to erect a fence in order deter them from entering the area.
  • Natural Water Such as a Lake or Pond: a fence is a good idea for the same safety and liability reasons as a pool fence.
  • A Dog: if you allow your dog to be outside unattended then it may be a good idea to fence in the part of your property where your dog roams. A true fence, rather than a pet’s invisible fence, will prevent people from coming onto your property and scaring your animal or enticing the animal to attack.
  • A Campfire Area, Playground Equipment, or Other Enticing Features such as a Rock Wall or Sledding Hill: as with a pool, kids, teenagers or even other adults may be tempted to come on your property and to check out its features. You can protect this from happening, protect people from getting hurt and protect yourself from liability by fencing in the area.
If you do install a fence it is important that the fence be sound and sturdy. You do not want the fence, which is intended to protect people, to become a liability in and of itself. In the same regard, it is important to keep the fence secured. A fence does little good if its gate is wide open and allows people easy access on to the property.
Some people resist putting a fence up and instead rely on other people to make the right decisions and stay off of property that they do not own and to which they were not invited. However, sometimes other people do not make the right judgments and the result of their actions could mean financial and emotional suffering for you. Therefore, it is up to you to protect yourself and your property with a fence if the situation warrants it.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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