What are our rights regarding an old fence on our neighbor’s property?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What are our rights regarding an old fence on our neighbor’s property?

We have about 1500 feet of land that runs along side our neighbor. The is old T-post and barbwire fencing that has been there for over 40 plus years and the neighbor has never said anything and even once told us the fence was fine. We have only owned the house for the last 7 years. This year we decided to put up new livestock fencing with more lines some electric some barbwire so that we can keep cows on the property. The area in question is very swampy and we had to set corner post in during the winter so the tractors would not sink into the muck and get stuck. So this spring the neighbor complained the post were on his property even though he had gone with us several years ago to try and find the corner and helped us mark where we thought it was. He then decided to have it surveyed and found that it is in fact about 18 feet onto his prperty for about half of the distance. He then said he wanted it moved. This is a problem now because we have no way to set new post until next winter when the ground refreezes and our horses are stuck in a smaller pasture until we can get this one fence line done. Do we have any right to this land because of the old fencing? We are even willing to pay him for the land that has no value because it is swamp just so we dont have to move the post. We spent a whole weekend just getting them in. We would like to be reasonable with him but he tends to be kind of a jerky neighbor.

Asked on April 14, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, if the fence is on his land, he can require it to be moved, regardless of its age. That the fence was there for many years does not change that--you have not owned the property long enough to claim the land by adverse possession, so the fence's presence on the land prior to your ownership is irrelevant. You can try to buy the land, or possibly to get a license (like a lease) to use it and keep the fence up, but that is voluntary on his part; he has the right to require it to be moved immediately, regardless of the effect on you or your neighbors.

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