Q: I’m in the process of trying to replace the fences around my property. The management of our development never returns my phone calls. I think they are obligated to pay one half the cost of the replacement of the fences.

What should I do?

A: Before you spend any money to replace the fences, you better be sure that you not only have the right to tear them down, but that you know exactly what you can replace them with.

You say that part of the cost of the fence replacement is the management company’s responsibility. Usually if a management company is involved in fence issues, there must be a declaration or other legal document recorded against the title to your home and other homes in your development that sets up the structure for the replacement of fences and other community issues.

Please make sure you review the documents that affect your property including any rules and regulations. If after reviewing the documents, you determine that you have the right to do the work without first obtaining permission from the association or management company, then you need to decide whether you are willing to risk doing the work before receiving the go-ahead from the management company.

If you do the work and the management company had to sign off on the work ahead of time, you risk not being reimbursed for half the cost. Worse, you may have set yourself up for a confrontation with your neighbors and the manager of the development.

Consider sending a letter to the property manager by certified mail (return receipt requested) along with a copy by regular mail. In the letter, make sure you outline the scope of the work and the expected cost. If you find in the property documents that the management company is supposed to pay for half of the cost, be sure to make a photocopy of the relevant page to include with the letter, and reference the information in your letter.

You want to be sure you have done everything possible to give the manager the opportunity to review and approve of the work. If the manager still does not respond, you may need to take the issue up with the homeowner’s association.

If you do get a call from the management company advising you that you can go ahead with the plan, ask to get their consent in writing before you start the work. If something goes wrong later, you’ll want the consent on paper.

Of course, if you find out that you own the fences that need to be replaced, that no consent is required to replace the fences, and that you were wrong in thinking that you would be reimbursed, you should put up a nice fence that will not only give you the privacy you need but enhance the value of your home.

Published: Jun 11, 2004