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Do good fences REALLY make good neighbors? And who should pay?

We live in a master planned community of ~3000 homes and as such, we have a fairly thorough set of HOA covenants. They’re not idiotically written, but they can be a pain at times when you want to do something simple like put in a playset in your backyard. Recently, they sent out their monthly newsletter notifying everyone that they would be “focusing on fences”, as there have been some homes that are staining their fences (not approved – sealing is fine, staining is a no-no) replacing their cedar fences with non-approved woods other than cedar (gasp-the horror!) and have rundown fences that need repair or replacing. We didn’t think anything about it as most of our fence is in good shape. Although Mrs. SSC and I disagree on this, because our views of “good shape” are highly divergent. However, one of our neighbors want to replace their fence and split the cost to replace the side we share with them. Now we’re arguing discussing which one of us is right. Oh brother…

Let me begin by saying that because we’re in a larger neighborhood a lot of people like to “Keep up with the Joneses” which is what sparked our recent fence issue. After the newsletter came out, within a month, 6 houses on our street had their entire fences redone – new stringers (the 2×4’s that the planks get nailed to) and new planks. Sure enough, one of our neighbors also noticed that and now wants theirs replaced too. Ugh…

Mr. SSC: I was approached by one of our neighbors and he wanted to let us know they were looking into it, and would get estimates, and didn’t have a quick time table for it, but since it’s an unexpected expense he wanted to give us a heads up and make sure it’s financially feasible. I thought that was nice of him and it seemed pretty neighborly on his part.

Then his wife stopped by to give me the estimate and it became clear it was a “they replaced their fence, and our fence is 12 years old and looking raggedy, so I’m going to replace it. Since we can’t downsize because my husband says it’s too much cost, I’m doing lots of remodeling.” The $1900 estimate she got was for ~100’ of fence that we share. Yippee!!

Maybe some of it looks raggedy, but not all...

Maybe some of it looks “raggedy”, but not all…

Mrs. SSC: I think that’s rude that they asked us to pay half, since our fence is in good enough shape and it doesn’t need to be replaced. Who decides to spend $3k on a fence if it’s not broken or falling over?! So because she is a new empty nester, we get caught in her boredom trying to find things to do around the house. That’s idiotic, we shouldn’t have to pay for that.

Mr. SSC: I agree sort of, except that I see the fence every week when I mow and think it could use a huge touch-up (at least on that side, the rest is in a lot better shape). We’ve already replaced 1 stringer on our back fence that shriveled up and fell apart, however, I just replaced the stringer myself and re-nailed the existing planks to it, easy-peasy.

Another replacement needs to happen here.

Another stringer replacement needs to happen here.

The side we share with these neighbors however, has 5 – 6 sections (out of ~11) that need the stringers replaced and then probably 60% or more of the boards themselves need replacing. They are rotted out at the base from being installed touching the ground and the excessive sprinkler usage from the previous home owners, they’re also warped from 12 years exposure to the heat and humidity, and some are just broken at the top or base.

Also, I saw that the front section of our fence that we share with them has both stringers that are starting to fall apart too, so I was already planning on replacing them very soon; however, I was just planning on replacing the stringers, not the planks too. Just last weekend, I had to re-nail a few boards to the existing deteriorating stringer because the nails had rusted through and they were hanging loosely. Ahhhh, the joys of home ownership.

The beginning of the end. The other stringer looked like this before it disintegrated.

The beginning of the end. The other stringer looked like this before it disintegrated. This one also pulled away from the post…

Mrs. SSC: I don’t think all of those boards are as bad as you say. Sure we might need to replace a few stringers that are warped or deteriorating, and there might be 10 – 12 fence planks that need replacing, but come on, we don’t need to totally replace every board on 13 sections of fence. They’re doing great for being 12 years old, and they can go a few years more. Why replace them now? Especially if we can move in 2 more years and then it’s not our problem.

Mr. SSC: Oh brother… We could piece meal it together and save a lot of money but if the neighbor doesn’t want to go that route, how am I going to convince them t just replace the ones that need replacing. I bet we’d end up close enough to full replacing, she wouldn’t go that route. I got a few online estimates and one from a contractor we’ve used quite a bit, we realized the $1900 is a fair price for our area. Yep, $1900, so our half would be $950.

Mrs. SSC: I vote that we price out what we would replace and the costs associated with that and tell them that is the amount we’d pay, but not the full $950. It’s ridiculous that just because they want a better/newer aesthetic we are forced into saying goodbye to $950. We wouldn’t get that replaced this year, and probably not until we were getting it ready to sell, and even then we’d just replace what needs replacing and not the whole fence.

The camera isn't the thing leaning in this pic. It's this whole section. I think the post might even be warped...

The camera isn’t the thing leaning in this pic. It’s this whole section. I think the post might even be warped…

Mr. SSC: I think that’s being cheap and causing undue friction with the neighbors. We should just go ahead and pay and get it taken care of.

Mrs. SSC: I realize the fence is past its’ “pretty years”, however I think it has some good years left, especially since it’s a want and not a need. I still think it’s a ridiculous cost just because the neighbors want something new and pretty to look at. Why should my money go to pay for their fences’ plastic surgery makeover when it just needs a little botox?

End Scene

Ultimately, we will probably go halfsies on the fence. Mainly, because if we fight it, they could make a case to the HOA that it needs to be repaired and force us into it, and then we’d just have grumpy neighbors.

What are your thoughts?

Better yet, who do you agree with more? Mwahahahahaaa

Have we overlooked some options that weren’t mentioned?

43 thoughts on “Do good fences REALLY make good neighbors? And who should pay?

  1. Mr Crazy Kicks

    That’s a tough call, because as soon as you replace the fence it will start deteriorating all over again, and what constitutes bad enough? Having a neighbor who wants to share the expense also changes things, at least now it will look nice if and when you sell your place.

    You are making me think I should get outside and seal my fence now..

    1. Mr. SSC

      I agree and if it lasted this long it will surely still look nice in 2-3 yrs when we get ready to sell. Splitting the cost is good for me too.

      Good luck with your fence, lol.

  2. Brittany

    Oh the joys of HOA’s and neighbors! We have an HOA and the builder still controls some of the big decisions. We’re not allowed fences unless the builder says we can, so our neighbor went through all of the right channels and asked us and their neighbors on the other side if a fence was ok. We said, yes, not a big deal, however the guy who lives half way across the neighborhood (who can’t even see it), was all up in arms. The fence went up and it caused an uproar, it’s pretty comical…

    Anyway back to your problem. I actually agree with Mrs. SSC, and not just to keep female solidarity. If the neighbor wants to replace the fence, then it’s their cost. They shouldn’t be spending my money…I’d dig my heals in.

    1. Mr. SSC

      That sounds like our neighborhoods Facebook pages for general communication and crime watch. It’s like Jerry Springer meets TMZ, It’s hilarious!

      She wants to dig in but I think our compromise will be that we will pay half, but it won’t be available until she starts getting paid in October and push it to that time table at the least.

  3. Kate

    I have a townhouse so I can relate to the HOA stuff. Is yours an association that you pay monthly due into (and you get benefits from)? It’s too bad the association couldn’t just replace ALL the fencing at once and charge an assessment for it — then everything would be identical and there’s nothing to discuss.

    I agree that sometimes it’s easier to suck it up and do what the neighbor wants, rather than causing friction, especially if it’s something you’d consider doing in 2 years anyway. Still stinks to pay that much money for something you weren’t planning to do at this time.

    1. Mr. SSC

      We pay yearly, and get good amenities. Lots of pocket playgrounds for the kids, 2 pools tennis courts, blah, blah, blah… So considering what some HOA dues could be we get a lot for our $800/yr. of course with almost 3000 houses paying that it makes me think we could be getting more. ?
      Fortunately we’re not in a situation where they could charge an assessment and do everyone’s at once. The neighborhood has been built up over the past 12 years and is just now finishing off the final home sites, so everyone is in different stages of fence deterioration.
      I agree it sucks spending money for nothing except something prettier to look at that still did the same thing as before…

  4. Edifi

    Unfortunately with every investment there’s upside and downside. Some years run P90 cost and some P10. I would cry poor (point to your frugal, visible purchases: cars, diy lawn care, etc.) and find a cheap-but-reasonable quote. Leverage these points (and your neighbor’s obvious lack of sensitivity toward spending) to negotiate them into paying more than half. Make them feel like they’re winning (they’re getting all the excitement of a new fence AND building relationships with neighbors), and you can win, too.

    1. Mr. SSC

      The quotes we’ve gotten have all been higher, so at least it is in the reasonable range. We’ll definitely cry poor, no one needs to know we don’t live paycheck to paycheck, lol.
      I’ll try to leverage into them paying more than half but since they’re paying for their back fence solo (another $1800) then I don’t think they’ll be too amenable. It may just be “if you do it before Oct./Nov. Then you’ll have to cover it and we’ll pay you back as we get funds. ? I’m fine with that.

  5. The Green Swan

    Oh the joys of homeownership! And HOAs!

    I would totally be in Mrs. SSCs camp, but it’s a shame the neighbor probably wouldn’t be on board. I would reluctantly go along with replacing the fence if the neighbor insisted though. While you may be moving soon, a nice new fence will help attract a buyer and maintaining a good relationship with the neighbor will be good.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah, looking at it more, I think repair would be better, but like you said, I’m willing to reluctantly go along and then have it as an upside for selling.
      Plus it will keep good relationships, so sort of win, win?

  6. Mr. PTM

    Oof, that’s tough. I would be reluctant to ask them to cover more than half since the shared fence benefits both properties equally. How about a compromise with them where you agree to do any critical repairs now and then replace the fence in a year? That way you could price shop further and maybe lock in a discount by booking a contractor in the off-season (if such a thing exists). Plus your neighbors might forget or change their mind in a year.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah I’m not sure there is an off season for fencing, however we got a great rate getting our landscaping done the week before Christmas. Maybe I’ll mention that and how those companies are struggling during the holiday months and if we push it off until then we may get a better price. Great tip and thanks for reminding me about our landscaping discount. Surely fencers are in the same predicament right?

  7. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    Oh man. We’re having HOA drama as well. I’m HOA president and the board is all about forcing people to make changes they don’t want. And I’m all “stop it people. We can’t force that upon people.” Sheesh. Sometimes you just need to replace the darn fence and keep the neighbors “happy.” Sorry. 🙂

    1. Mr. SSC

      Fortunately the HOA isn’t forcing anyone yet, and I think we’d be safe even if they did, because except for looking new, the front parts of our fences look fine.
      I agree, it sucks spending that money, BUT it will help sales in a few years, and keep the neighbors happy and that’s always good too right! ?

  8. amber tree

    Having good neighbours is important. Being forced by neighbours to replace a fence is not a lot of fun.

    Did you try to talk to the neighbour to make it a DIY project? Like fixing the parts that are broken like you thought. When you do not ask….

    Good luck with it

    1. Mr. SSC

      I could ask about making it DYI but I’m guessing she won’t go for it. She did mention, “see the HOA only made them replace a few boards.” Referring to our across the street neigbor whose home is up for sale. I said, I’d bet they just replaced what is needed I can’t see the HOA saying replace a few boards and not the whole thing.
      Anyway, her whole family is all about appearances, minus her husbands side, they have the newest Mercedes 3 yrs running now, and or other high end car anytime they come to visit so I’m guessing she won’t want to explain why they went cheap and replaced a few boards only, lol.

  9. Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope

    LOL – we wouldn’t last long in one of those communities. In focusing on paying off debt, we have stopped worrying about the aesthetics of our home. For example, we have no storm door right now. It fell off one day and we just haven’t felt the need to replace it yet – a needs versus wants thing.

    But, if the expense won’t horribly derail your plans, then it might be a good idea not to cause trouble, especially if you think the HOA will just force you into it anyways.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah this neighborhood is all about appearances in some regards. I think the fence could go another few years with some repairs and I think the HOA wouldn’t force us unless our neighbor went through the protest or petition process with them.
      While it sucks I think splitting it will ultimately be easier and it does give us 1 less thing to have break, lol.

  10. Mr. PIE

    Now, I won’t sit on the fence here with my comment.

    In the spirit of building bridges (or perhaps I should say fences) with Mrs. SSC and the neighbors, I say pull the damn thing down, light a bonfire with all that wood, invite them over for s’mores by the fire and wonder in the magic that is neighborly love. If there is no fence, there is no repair, right?

  11. TheMoneyMine

    I think you can start off the discussion saying :
    1. Sorry guys, this wasn’t in the budget for this year, we just did x,y and z. Would you mind doing this next year?
    2. You can also make the proposal to replace only what needs replacing.
    It doesn’t cost to ask.

    On the other hand, you also want to keep a good relationship with your neighbor, so don’t push too hard 🙂

    1. Mr. SSC

      I think those are good points and will get discussed next time we see them. Honestly, I don’t think they’ll move on it before Oct. or Nov. anyway.
      I’ll bring up the repair not replace, but I don’t think they’ll go for it. We’ll see and keep you updated just the same. ?

  12. Prudence Debtfree

    Since you’ll be selling your house in a couple of years, this might work into your plans. Mrs. SSC thinks that it might not be necessary to replace the whole fence before moving, but I think that most home buyers would take “new” over “patched up”. My vote would be for chipping in with the neighbours – but on your schedule. For your purposes, it would be better to get the new fence some time between next year and the year after that. I don’t think your neighbours have done anything wrong by asking. No need to unsettle the peace at this point. Hopefully, they will accept a modification of their plans to take your interests into account. If they don’t, then the peace can be unsettled. I think you and Mrs. SSC should meet in the middle (only because you asked whom we agreed with more. A dangerous question : )

    1. Mr. SSC

      I agree with that point and is my main reason to want to just say, let’s do it! We aren’t replacing the other 2 sides though as they’re in better shape and those neighbors don’t ever come out f their house to ask about getting stuff like that done, lol.

      I’ll bring up our situation and let them know they’ll have to float it until Oct./Nov. Timeframe if they do it sooner than that. If we can get a slow time holiday discount that could work out better too.

      I asked for opinions because I care, and it makes for some interesting comments, haha! ?

  13. Dividends Down Under

    Interesting dilemma!

    I agree with Mrs SSC that it’s a stupid situation, why should you have to pay just because someone else wants to get something nicer (like if you carpooled with your neighbour and they wanted to buy a new Audi as the carpool car).

    But for the sake of maintaining good relations with your neighbour (and that you’re selling soon anyway?) you may as well replace it. Perhaps you could pitch in a third? I don’t think paying half is terrible.


    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Well, we’re hoping to be selling in 2018 or Spring of 2019, so soon’ish. Soon in the sense of a fence that’s lasted 12 years so far, hahahaha
      I agree, the whole cost would suck, as she’s finding out since the bank owns the house behind her now. She’s debating waiting until someone moves in to hit them up for half as well, to which I mentally, doubled over and started laughing. It was really hard not to laugh when she was mentioning that. I think that alone could keep this project stalled for a while anyway.

      Yes, it does suck but I think it’s better to do it, get it over with and go on with life. Just do it when it’s convenient for us to pitch in and pay for it and not when she deems it’s necessary. It ought to be an interesting Fall for sure. 🙂

  14. Mrs Groovy

    I agree with Mr Money Mine’s point number 1, except I wouldn’t ask, I would state it as fact. What would piss me off is suddenly being forced into a production of time and cost that was not on my immediate radar. I’d tell them that at the time you become ready to entertain this idea you’ll invite several contractors you know to give estimates. That puts them on notice that if they want you to share the cost, they must accept you sharing the decision making.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yeah, I pointed that out somewhat, but will reiterate that, Nope, we’re not going to have funds available for this until after Oct./Nov. timeframe because we didn’t budget for it.
      I’m tempted to get more contractors to come out and look at it to get an estimate just to have our own versions. Our landscaper/general contractor we’ve used in the past couldn’t get within $300 of their price, and another company had an online estimate that was again almost $400 over their quote.

      Our contractor did mention that if we went with a fencing only contractor, they could probably get a lot less than her quote. We’ll probably go that route just to show them that if she’s “forcing us to get on the bus”, we’re not going to quietly take a back seat and let her drive it. Great tip!

  15. Stefan - The Millennial Budget

    Sticky situation as this is an unforeseen event but at the same time you do not want the HOA knocking on your door and making you “that neighbor.”

    Not sure how crafty you are but how much do you think it will cost if you did it by yourself overtime? I would also shop around contractors to get a potentially better price but ensure quality is always there as this can increase the value of your home.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I thought about going the DIY route and just pricing it out, but since they want their whole fence replaced, I don’t think they would go for that option of me doing 11 sections and another contractor doing the rest. 🙂

      I’ve emailed to get more quotes this week, so I can have more ammo to use for better price or some other way to reduce price.

  16. RocDoc

    I don’t know if this would be agreeable to you but what about telling your neighbor to pay you $950 and you’ll build the fence instead of hiring someone? If you build the fence in October or November it’ll be nice weather for working outdoors in Houston by then. Since you’re being paid for the work, it would be self employment income and I think you could deduct the cost of tools or equipment you’d need (the tools might come in handy when you’re getting your house ready for sale in a couple years.)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I have thought about this option, but since they want to replace the back side of their fence (another 90′ or so) and 2 more sections in the front that we don’t share, I can’t see them being agreeable to that.

      I don’t see it as enjoyable to take on a side project to replace their whole fence, although, if I used a couple of vacation days, maybe it would work out. I just envision that as a time suck boondoggle like Mr. 1500’s posts on his porch.

      I’ve sent out some more emails to try and get the price down and at least say, “Hey we don’t want to replace this and didn’t plan for it, but if we did, we’d use this company. Here’s their price, so we’ll pay half of that cost.”

      That’s where diplomacy will be key, lol. I still may just replace our 3 sections and gate myself, as that would just take a half day tops. Provided I’ve built the gate already. I remember hanging those things to work just right tends to eat up a lot of time too.

  17. RocDoc

    I was worried Mr1500 would end up taking 1500 days to finish those lovely posts! They look great on his porch and I’m sure he’s enjoying them despite the 700 hours it took to make them. I agree, you don’t want a 700 hour fence!

  18. Kara

    My last landlord had to go halvsies on a fence. It cost 1k and while it looked much better afterwards, it was definitely a want on the neighbors half. Is there anyway you can go like, 2/3 and 1/3 on the cost? I feel like it’s fair that the person who comes up with the idea and imposes the spending on someone else should cough up a bit more. But I’m not a homeowner interested in keeping neighbors happy, so what do I know? 🙂

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I can always ask about going less than half, but after getting back even more quotes, the price she showed us is still about $500 less than I could find. If it would be more than an inconvenience for the cost, I’d be way more inclined to push back some more.

      I’m in the “it sucks, but it’s not an outrageous request, the timing just sucks, but let’s get it done this fall” camp as opposed to investing more energy than I already have trying to find a way to reduce cost. At this pint just asking to pay less than half is the only avenue left. 🙂

  19. Our Next Life

    First, I completely love the way you guys did this post, with the back and forth. More posts like this, please! And this hits home for us because we want to put in a fence, our HOA says we can get our neighbors to pay for half of their portions, but it’s the lack of desire to ask them to pony up that has us not acting. 🙂 I think our neighbors actually prefer things be unfenced, so we’re kind of the jerks who want to spoil people’s views (not really “views” — just the openness). But I kind of agree with both of you — I’d probably just do it to keep things neighborly, but then I’d be secretly resentful of having been coerced into spending money that wasn’t in our budget. 🙂 Hahaha.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We have a couple more posts like this coming up, or sort of like this. Anytime there’s a disagreement or we want to show our thought process, we find it’s easier to use this format. Glad you liked it!

      And see, that’s the exact point about asking to pay less than half that I wanted to avoid. We share the fenceline, and whether they want to get it done or not, if they wanted to they just have to petition the HOA and then we have to pay half AND look like jerks. 🙂 No thanks! hahaha

      To be honest, I was expecting to spend abut $200-$300 for repairs this fall when things cooled off anyway and was going to ask them for $$. In the past, I haven’t asked with our other neighbors because it’s just been a 2×4 here and there. Since there were going to be whole sections replaced on this side, I figured when I mentioned it to them they would probably opt for full replace, but you never know with people. They can surprise you.

  20. Chris

    I believe it’s fair to replace the fence and split the cost. Since you keep part of your old fence I would ask them for the good planks from the entire fence that is replaced and use those to fix the remaining old fence. It will look better than using new ones, and you save money on planks needed for repairs.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I’m of the same opinion and think if we’re doing it, then half is fair. Since it’s not a new fence, or some ridiculous upgrade, then it’s more abuot the fact that the timing sucks.

      Good tip on saving some of the old planks, if they don’t work out for the fence, free wood for the fire pit when the weather gets back out of the 90’s. 🙂

  21. Evan

    I have zero advice, but I am going through such a similar situation with my neighbor right now. He wants to get a new fence but wants me to split it. I said sure but the kind he picked out was not at all what The Wife and I wanted. Finally we told him, if he wants to pay for it we are good with whatever he wants, however, if I am splitting it I want what I want. We haven’t spoken about it since lol

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I would have had the same response if I was in that situation. Why split the cost for a fence you wouldn’t have picked out and don’t want? At least that may have deferred the project for a bit anyway.

  22. Lady Locust @ The Locust Blossom

    2 words: Duck’s Back. It’s a stain/sealant that makes old fences look new. You could repair those necessities that the structure requires and do a section then show your neighbors to see what they think. It could last many more years w/ proper sealing. I just hopped over here from ‘Our Next Life’ so just found you. Sorry if it’s too late on this one.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks for the tip, and I’ll have to look into that sealant. I haven’t heard another word on the fence, surprising because we had 5 more neighbors replace theirs as well. They did just put in a new tree to get up to HOA standards, but so far it’s just been crickets chirping over there. Fingers crossed it stays that way. 🙂

      Glad you found us, and ONL is a fav of mine. I love how you can find so many other related blogs in the comment sections. 🙂

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