Ideally, neighbors can agree between themselves on most fencing issues. If they do not, Nebraska Division Fence Statutes provide a legal process for resolving fence disputes. A recent Cornhusker Economics Newsletter (June 2, 2010), discussed the 2010 requirement that splits the cost of a wire division fence 50-50 between neighbors, and also the history of the Nebraska Division Fence Statutes. This newsletter discusses the process for resolving fencing disagreements in Nebraska.
Are division fences required? No, if neither neighbor wants the fence, there doesn’t need to be one. However, if one neighbor wants the fence and the other neighbor doesn’t, the fence builder can require the neighbor to pay half the cost of the fence even if the neighbor doesn’t want the fence, doesn’t have cattle or doesn’t want to pay for the fence. NRS §34- 102.
Who has to pay for a division fence between two landowners? Both landowners share the cost of the fence 50-50, unless they have previously agreed to a different split. The 50-50 rule applies even if only one neighbor has cattle. NRS §34-102(1).
What type of fence can be built? If the fence builder is going to pay for the fence, the statute does not restrict the type of fence built. But if the fence builder wants the neighbor to be responsible for half the fence, the fence must be at least four wires, at least number nine fencing wire and attached to posts no more than one rod (16.5 feet) apart, with a post or stake between every two posts. Barbed wire may be used, but is not required. The fence must be at least 4.5 feet high, with no more than one foot between the wires, measured from the top. If the neighbors both agree, a different type of fence may be constructed. NRS §§34-102(2),-115(5),-116.
What if the neighbor doesn’t want to pay his/her share? Under the statute, you must formally serve written notice upon the neighbor that you are going to build, maintain or repair the fence. You should obtain legal assistance here. If the neighboring landowner does not live on the land, you must serve the notice to whoever lives there or the owner’s agent (probably a tenant). The written notice must request that the neighbor either build, maintain or repair his/her portion of the fence, or else pay you for doing so. After the written notice has been served, you may begin fence construction, maintenance or repair (unless you have requested that the neighbor do so instead of you). Alternatively, you can file a lawsuit to force the neighbor to comply, as discussed below. N R S § 3 4 - 112.02(1)(2).