Good Fences Make Good Lawsuits

During Jan Mickelson's (@amtalker) radio show this morning on 1040 WHO, I heard part of a story about two neighbors who had a dispute about a fence.  The discussion involved Iowa Code Section 359A, which is a very old statute.  Essentially, the statute sets forth the procedure under which a person can force his adjoining land neighbor to help pay for the costs of a fence between the two properties.

There are several policies furthered by this statute.  The centuries-old proverb that "good fences make good neighbors" is an obvious reason, but for agricultural states it also helps clarify farmland boundaries and contain livestock. 

This is where clarification is important:  although the radio guest noted that this statute is intended for agricultural purposes, the statute technically does not have that limitation.  The Iowa Supreme Court has held that:

"Chapter 359A applies equally to all adjoining landowners without regard to the use of the land. Our decision rested on the fundamental belief that, in the long run, shared responsibility for partition fences minimizes conflict among neighbors. The fencing statute does not merely benefit livestock owners.  It serves the broader public good by mediating boundary, fence and trespass disputes."  Gravert v. Nebergall, 539 N.W.2d 184, 188 (Iowa 1995).
 

So for the city-folk reading this note, you have the access to this statute as well.

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