Building a fence between neighbours

| 03/05/2016

I am installing a fence on the boundary between my property and the neighbouring property. The fence will equally benefit both my land and the neighbour’s land. Is my neighbour required to split the cost with me? I have heard there is a “Fences Law” in Cayman, but have not been able to obtain a copy. Does this law deal with this issue?

Auntie’s answer: While considering your question, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the old adage, “Good fences make good neighbours”. However, based on the information I have collected, I am not so sure you will agree with that proverb.

You are correct that there is a Fences Law on the books in Cayman (if you would like to read through the document, which is mercifully short, click here).

I contacted the Department of Planning to clarify who is responsible for what when it comes to building fences. As it was explained to me, while the law does mention neighbours sharing the cost of construction, the planning official said, “To the best of our knowledge no implementing regulations have ever been approved which would specify how the law is to be administered”.

In simple terms, this basically means that while those who drafted the law acknowledged that there would be instances where a fence would need to be built and/or repaired and that the neighbours involved should be assessed as to the amount each one should be obligated to fork over, there is nothing in the law to mandate how this would be done.

The law does specify that “The Governor in Council may make regulations necessary or convenient for the purposes of this Law and may, in particular, make regulations (a) prescribing the procedure to be followed by an owner of a property when requiring the owner of an adjoining property to contribute towards the cost of the construction, repair or maintenance of a fence between their properties.” It continues that these regulations to be named later may also detail the procedures to settle any dispute over payment.

I feel compelled to weigh in on this legal black hole. How is it possible that a law exists that points out that two property owners should share the cost of a common fence but fails to address the legal path to do just that? Oh, wait. Never mind. My mistake. Why would the law make sense? I am clearly giving the powers-that-be way too much credit.

One more thing: I also looked into whether one neighbour must get the other’s consent before building a fence. And the answer to that is no, but you are required to get planning permission if any fence or wall is going to be more than four feet high; there are two exceptions where walls shorter than that need permission, but anyone that interested please check with the planning department.

Meanwhile, let’s hope good sense and fair play prevail with you and your neighbour so that your construction project will not result in unnecessary conflict and a need to mend fences later — metaphorically speaking, of course.


Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (8)

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  1. Amateur Surveyor says:

    Obviously a fence has a certain width, a wall a greater width. Anyone wishing to define their boundary usually constructs the fence or wall so that it’s outer face is just within their own property. e.g. If, as is common, the corner markers are IPC (iron pegs in concrete), tie a string between them and build the structure so that it just doesn’t touch the string. If you plant a hedge, then it should be well within your own property so that, when fully grown, it doesn’t intrude across the boundary, otherwise your neighbour would be justified in pruning it back.
    This is commonly done all over Grand Cayman and the Brac so I don’t really understand the reason behind the question.

  2. Crab Claw says:

    What if they don’t want a fence or like the fence you want to build, then they shouldn’t have to pay for your wants or needs, You should at least sit down with them and discus it instead of planning and building then informing them they have a bill to cover.

  3. Scott elliott says:

    Thank you very much for your detailed answer. And kudos for attaching a link to the law itself. You should be working in government. Very helpful !

  4. Anonymous says:

    Be prepared to cover the full costs yourself prior to building!

    Before assuming your neighbor ‘should’ pay for half the fence, have you considered that perhaps they may have other urgent issues that require their financial attention? (interior damages, medical costs, to name a few things you may not be aware of), you can’t get money where there isn’t any!

    Then there’s the this; you may have different tastes, you may be willing & wanting to buy a higher end fence system then your neighbors: you can’t expect them to pay for a concrete wall when they only wanted a chain-link fence.

  5. Anonymous says:

    dont think you can force anyone to pay, have to be mutual agreement. plus if you do it on your own you will have to build it on your property.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am going to keep lots of goats in my yard. Wanna split the cost of that fence now?

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, if your goat comes on my land, guess what’s for supper?

      • Anonymous says:

        if your goats are a problem then they might force you not them. you would be the problem.