A Guide to Minnesota Fence Laws

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In Minnesota, a fence is considered beneficial to both neighbors, so the cost of building a fence is shared equally between adjoining property owners. However, if you live on a smaller property you may be exempt under your county or township laws.
Minnesota fence law is mostly designed to maintain livestock between adjoining properties and recognizes it’s in the best interests of both neighbors for livestock to not cross property lines. 
Neighbors can choose to live without a fence separating their properties, butif at least one property owner wants a fence installed, both homeowners are required to pay for it.
The decision between neighbors to build a fence can be divisive - figuratively and literally. It’s important to know the laws before rolling out the barbed wire, so car and home insurance super app Jerryhas compiled all you need to know in this guide.
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What is the Minnesota Partition Fence Law?

If one or both homeowners in neighboring properties wishes to install a fence, both property owners are responsible for sharing the cost of the fence. 
The idea behind Minnesota fence laws is that a fence benefits both neighbors, so they should both contribute to the costs of building and maintaining a partition fence in the following conditions are met:
  • At least one of the homeowners wishes to install a fence on all or part of the land.
  • The land of one or both homes is considered to be “wholly or partly improved or used.” This means the land is occupied, used, or partially developed.
Neighbors should agree on what type of fence will be built and who will build it. If neighbors cannot agree, or face a fence-related dispute, they should put their concerns in writing to the local fence viewers. 

Fence viewers

Local officials are assigned the role of “fence viewers” and are in charge of overseeing the law. Fence viewers will be brought in to make decisions or settle disputes, including but not limited to:
  • One neighbor failing to build or repair a partition fence when they have been required to do so
  • One neighbor installing a different type of fence or a fence costing more than what was agreed 
  • Disagreements over which type of fence should be built
Fence viewers will attend the property, sometimes for a fee, and assess the existing fence or what type of fence should be built. They might impose a time limit on a property owner to install, repair, or pay for a fence. Failure to meet deadlines might result in interest and civil action.
If one neighbor fails to build or maintain a fence for which the fence viewers have deemed them responsible, the other neighbor can build the fence and may be entitled to double the costs of building or repairing.

Exceptions to the Minnesota Partition Fence Law

Homeowners may be exempt from these laws if their combined landmass is less than 20 acres. Some counties or townships have made exemptions to the law, so be sure to check within your municipality or county to see if there are different rules you should follow.=
Key Takeaway If your neighbor wants to install a fence, you will likely be responsible for an even share of the building costs in Minnesota.

When does Minnesota law require fences?

Livestock

Livestock is not allowed to run loose in Minnesota as per State Statute 346.16. Each year, there are many road accidents involving cattle, sheep, and other farm animals that have wandered onto roads. 
The owner of livestock is responsible for keeping the animals safely fenced in on the property. They can be held legally responsible for any injury or damage caused by an animal that was allowed to roam into danger.

Pools

Fences are legally required around public pools, as defined by the Minnesota Department of Health. There is no state-wide law concerning private pools, but most cities in Minnesota have bylaws that require fences around private pools
City bylaws may dictate whether a fence is required, the minimum height of the fence, the type of closure required, spacing under the fence or between bars, approved building materials, and more.
If you have a private pool or are planning to install one, it is important you check the bylaws in your city or county.

How to legally build a fence in Minnesota

Some cities or counties may require permits to build fences. Look into your local laws before building to see if you need a special permit. Some cities may also have specific laws regarding fence height or location. For instance, Minneapolis has its own fence-building guide.
Minnesota has specific guidelines as to what constitutes a legal fence. Most of these specs are to do with livestock fences and are not the type you’d want in a suburban family home.
These are the types of legal fences in Minnesota:
  • A fence built using rails, timber, boards, wires, or stone walls
  • Streams or other bodies of water, ditches, or hedges that are deemed by fence viewers to be equivalent to another type of legal fence
  • Barbed wire fences with the particular specifications outlined here
In the case that neighbors can’t agree on which type of fence they would like to build, fence viewers will help determine which type of fence is best suited to the property line.

Does homeowners insurance cover fences?

It all depends on what causes damage to your fence, butfence damage will be covered under the “other structures” coverage of your homeowners insurance. Check your insurance policy to see if it includes other structures.
Damage caused by a storm, for example, can be claimed under insurance. Normally the cost to repair or rebuild the fence will be covered, though if your existing fence was in poor repair that may be taken into consideration. 
One caveat is that damage to your fence should be considered preventable. For instance, if a healthy tree falls on your fence, that should be covered by insurance. But if the tree was rotting it could be argued you should have removed it earlier to prevent fence damage.
Once damage occurs, take photos to document the damage, so you have a reference to provide in case of future damages and claims. 

How to save money on homeowners insurance in Minnesota

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FAQs

This all depends on the laws in your county or municipality. Some bylaws require permits for fences only over a certain height. As an example, Minneapolis only requires a permit for fences over seven feet in height.
In most cases, yes, since the cost of the fence is shared between neighbors. Note that in some cities, there are laws regarding how far back the fence must be built from the sidewalk or street, regardless of where your property line ends. Check your local laws for any specifics.

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