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An Introduction to Rhode Island Fencing Laws

For the most part, property owners can do what they wish with their property. However, Rhode Island property law steps in to provide some guidance and regulation of how landowners use their land. For the most part, this is to ensure that others who own nearby property are not negatively affected by a landowner’s decisions.

One of the more common issues that arise between neighbors involves the lawfulness of a property owner’s fence. In many situations, fences are necessary to keep people or animals out; however, fences can also have a deleterious effect on the “feel” of an area or neighborhood. Fences can also obstruct nearby homeowners’ view, or, interrupt their access.

It may come as a surprise to some homeowners, but Rhode Island fencing law outlines precisely what types of fences are permitted. For example, below is a list of permissible fences, discussed in terms of minimum height:

  • Post-and-Rail fences: Must be four rails high, and reach a height of 4.5 feet high.
  • Stone walls: Must be four feet high.
  • Woven wire fences: Must use size nine wire or greater, reach 54 inches high, and have posts at least every 16 feet.
  • All other fences must be 4.5 feet tall.

Primarily, the above requirements are based on a fence’s job in keeping animals contained. However, Rhode Island fencing law also provides other restrictions on certain types of fencing. For example, a barbed-wire fence cannot be constructed unless the bordering neighbor consents to its construction. A spite fence is one “which unnecessarily exceeds six feet in height and is maliciously erected or maintained for the purpose of annoying the owners or occupants of adjoining property.” Under Rhode Island property law, spite fences are considered a private nuisance, and those whose view or enjoyment is harmed as a result of a spite fence can pursue a claim for damages.

Many Rhode Island fence disputes are not actually about the fence itself, but about the land upon which the fence is constructed. For example, neighboring landowners may have different ideas of where a property line is, however, this silent disagreement may never be known until one of the neighbors constructs a fence. Those who believe that a neighboring property owner’s fence has been built on their property should reach out to a dedicated Rhode Island property law attorney for assistance.

Are you Involved in a Rhode Island Boundary Line Dispute?

If you are currently involved in a Rhode Island boundary line dispute, or believe that a neighbor’s unlawful fence negatively impacts your enjoyment of your home, contact the dedicated real estate lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we represent homeowners in all types of Rhode Island real estate and property law issues, including boundary line disputes, zoning issues, and claims of adverse possession. Fences are not trivial matters, and a failure to act quickly may result in your inability to do anything about the issue in the future. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys, call 401-300-4055 today.

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