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Frequent Contributor

Fence disputes

Has anyone had experience with a farmer/landowner who appealed the decision of the fence viewers

to district court? The farmer appealing the decision has a family member who is attorney, and he is asking for a jury trial.

He lives two counties away. The sheriff delivered a 43-page document to the farmer who is requesting him to build new

fence. What could possibly be gained by a jury trial in district court? In Iowa, I thought fence law was pretty clear, and

the fence viewers would have the final say. Thanks! Cheryl Tevis, SF

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46 Replies
Honored Advisor

Re: Fence disputes

in Iowa the rule has been that each landowner take their righthand side of the fence regardless if they own livestock or not.  But now you have townships where there no longer are "fence viewers", no one has livestock. Alot of times it goes to court, farmer with no livestock doesn`t feel the justification to pay for half a fence that will be no use to him..and judges are kind of seeing that side of it, that it was a archaic law and like so many things these days, judges "make laws".

 

I see both sides of it, i raised cattle next to a neighboring 90 yr old widow and wasn`t about to send her a fencing bill and it was just as well getting by with the old fence + electric..as $7 corn had me plowing it up anyway  Smiley Happy

 

I`ve heard of cases with fencelines getting ripped out because of GPS, that the farmer wanting the fence ripped out expects the other neighbor to pay half the cost of removal.  That`s going a little far, if you`re a Big Shot wanting a fence ripped out, you should bear all the expense.

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Frequent Contributor

Re: Fence disputes

Thanks. It seems there should be a principle of following a law that is on the books.The benefit to the

non-livestock owner would be helping to keep someone else's livestock out of his crops. Even more important, 

from my community-minded viewpoint, is being a good neighbor, (especially when you can well afford to be).

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Fence disputes

   GOOD NEIGHBORS ???

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Highlighted
Honored Advisor

Re: Fence disputes

If the guy fighting the fence has a family member attorney, who will most likely represent him for free, then in monetary terms, he is getting out of a considerable expense for nothing. I can understand why there is really no downside risk in asking for a court decision, especially if that relative knows where to pick the right judge.

It is pretty typical for local governing body decisions to be eligible for appeal to the courts. In this instance, the guy on the other side of the fence may very well aay, "Fighting this in court will cost more than the fence itself." If he has to hire counsel, it probably will.

One has nothing to lose, and the other gains only half the cost of a boundary fence. You can forget about civic mindedness, good neighborliness...it's a dog eat dog world, and some of us are wearing Milkbone underwear....
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Senior Contributor

Re: Fence disputes

If you have a neighbor like this you just put the cheapest fence you can 3 feet of the line and up to your good neighor to keep his livestock of your land simple if they want to be holes. Have seen surveys done by two different surveyors and the pins never seem to be the same.

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Senior Advisor

Re: Fence disputes

The ISU CALT has a number of artilces on Iowa fence law.  

http://www.calt.iastate.edu/search?as_q=fence+law&btnG=

I am in a hurry to go out and plant soybeans so didn't open and read each of them, and thus can't say if the directly pertain to your question.

I have personal knowledge of fences and pins not agreeing.  Some fence lines weave in and out like a snake.  Some fence lines have become property lines that were once dividing fences on the same farm.  Generally, fences win, unless they were removed and later a new fence is established, in which case it has to follow the pins. 

 

I agree, two surveyores can come place two different pins.

 

We still have active fence viewers in our township.

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Fence disputes

I've known about 2 fence disputes since I have been farming. Like BA says shaking hands over the fence your side is the right hand side. I have also seen where the staples have been put is your side-in other words if the staples are put in on your side of the fence that side is yours. Both fence disputes ended up both sides sharing the cost of the fence and the individual that did not want the fence pay a fair labor bill to the other person who is putting in the fence. In the one case the individual that did not want the fence originally put in a fence that would'nt hold a dog in let alone cattle. The county trustees were brought out and it was determined not to be a suitable fence. County trustees have a lot to say in these type of matters.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Fence disputes

The reference WCMO linked tous bery thorough. As a Southeastener, it was interesting to read. We have " fencing out" and "fencing in" laws in different states, I think. Remember as a child one very wealthy farmer who never fenced in his hogs, which ate pretty well off others' crop fields. You could encounter a huge sow in the road in your headlights fairly often, too.

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Fence disputes

Fencing disputes can become very entangled and nasty.  A few years ago I had a fellow I know come into the office (SWCD) and ask what he should do; the neighbor widow lady had the old boundary fence cleaned out and was in the process of installing new fence to keep her cows in (he had no livestock).  Ages before one end of the fence had been misplaced onto his property by about 6' and he wanted his land back (not quite .1 acre total and not even close to being prime farmland).  He immediately mentioned lawyers and I told him to go talk to her, have a cup of coffee and knowing her fairly well, I told him that I was sure they could work something out without spending a lot of money.  Instead, he hired a lawyer, forcing her to do the same and when it was all said and done, he had a $6,000 lawyer bill (not sure how much it cost her) and the judge had the remaining portion of the fence built on the true property line, leaving the fence with a jog in the middle of it.  $6,000 for the approximately .05 acre he got back made for some very expensive property.  Afterwards when he was whining to me how much it cost him, I told him I didn't want to hear it because he did exactly what I suggested he not do and the expensive result was exactly what I told him would happen if he got lawyers involved.  But by golley, he got part of his land back and he certainly showed that old, widowed, retired 3rd grade school teacher a thing or two.  What I didn't tell him was that pride can come at a very expensive price and being "right" isn't the same as being smart.   

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