A Guide to South Dakota Fence Laws

South Dakota’s fence laws dictate that construction and maintenance responsibilities and costs must be shared equally between property owners.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Apr 01, 2022
Under certain circumstances in South Dakota, if you and your neighbor have a partition fence on a shared property line, you’ll each be required to erect and/or maintain half of the fence. 
Installing a fence the right way can help you avoid disputes with your neighbor—as well as the extra costs that come with making changes later if you learn it doesn’t meet specified requirements. 
If you’re wondering what state law has to say about fences in South Dakota, the home and
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is here to give you the rundown with this guide. Read on to learn more about what state law says about fences between properties—and what can be done if neighbors disagree.
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What are South Dakota’s fence laws?

If you’re planning to build a fence on the property line between your neighbor’s land and yours (aka a “partition fence”) rather than exclusively on your own property, you may need to split construction and maintenance costs and responsibilities.  
Section 42-24
of the South Dakota Code outlines requirements for partition fences at the state level. South Dakota law requires that, unless the two property owners come to a different agreement, each owner will be responsible for half of the expenses that come with setting up and maintaining the partition fence.
A 2016 memorandum
issued by the South Dakota Legislature addresses this and clarifies that the law does generally apply to both livestock and non-livestock property owners.
So, to reiterate, if neither you nor your neighbor keep livestock on your properties or stand to benefit from having a partition fence within the next five years, this law wouldn’t apply
If you don’t own livestock but your neighbor does, however, the law would still require you to share responsibility for the fence’s maintenance unless you come to another agreement with the landowner. If you do come to an alternative agreement, it’s a good idea to get it in writing.
So, which half of the fence are you responsible for? South Dakota law states that the half of the partition fence is responsible for is the right half when facing the property line on their own land.
When it comes to setting up fences within city limits, you’ll want to check to see whether there are any city- or county-level requirements for constructing your fence, like materials used or maximum height.

When property owners can’t agree on a fence

If you and your neighbor can’t come to an agreement about a partition fence’s construction and maintenance and the state fence law will apply, the partition fence will have to meet certain specifications outlined in Section 42-23-4.
Those partition fence requirements include:
  • At least four strands of barbed wire spaced at 18, 28, 38, and 48 inches from the ground
  • Wood posts at least six-and-a-half feet long and four inches in diameter, no more than 30 feet apart
  • Concrete posts at least six feet long and at least four inches in diameter, no more than 30 feet apart
  • Steel posts at least five-and-a-half feet long set at least 17 inches into the ground, no more than 20 feet apart
If one landowner doesn’t construct or repair their part of a partition fence, the other landowner can give them written notice requiring them to take action within 30 days of being served the notice. However, an owner considered delinquent can’t be expected to construct their part of the fence while the ground is frozen
Generally, though, if those 30 days come and go, the other landowner has the option of recovering construction or repair costs owed by the delinquent owner in a civil action (including reimbursement for time spent on the delinquent owner’s half of the fence) or even place a lien on the property owner. 
If you can’t come to an agreement with your neighbor about maintenance costs, there’s also the option of building your own fence away from the property line. 

Buffalo fences

Fences for containing buffalo
require more specialized (and more expensive) fencing. Fences for buffalo can use smooth wire instead of barbed wire and five strands must be used, with the fifth wire being spaced 54 inches above the ground. Posts must stand at least 54 inches tall above ground. 
If only one property owner has buffalo, both property owners will still be responsible for maintaining their half of the fence as required by Section 42-23-4, but unless you come to another agreement, the buffalo owner will be responsible for the additional costs to make the entire fence buffalo-proof.
Key Takeaway If two property owners can’t come to an agreement on a partition fence on their own, both landowners will be responsible for half of the fence’s construction and maintenance costs, and the fence will have to meet certain specifications.

Does South Dakota law require fences?

If you’re a livestock owner, yes. While in past decades certain parts of South Dakota were “open range” and allowed cattle to roam and graze without fences, but those laws were repealed in 1980, so now, livestock fences are required across the state.

How to legally build a fence in South Dakota

Suppose you’re looking to build a fence on the shared property line between you and your neighbor. In that case, it’s a good idea to check for city and county ordinances first to see if any requirements dictate what sort of fence can be built, whether you need a permit to do so, and how you and your neighbor should come to an agreement on it.  
Once you have a sense of what’s allowed where you live, you’ll want to discuss your plans with your neighbor if you plan to construct it on the property line. If the two of you can agree on how it will be constructed and how expenses and maintenance will be covered, get that agreement in writing.
Have a surveyor outline the boundaries of your properties to know where to properly build your fence and to avoid potential disputes about where that line lies.
If you and your neighbor can’t come to an agreement on a partition fence, you might still be subject to splitting half of construction and maintenance duties and costs. When that’s the case, if the other property owner doesn’t comply with their half of costs and maintenance, you can send them a written notice requesting that they take action within 30 days.
That said you still have the option of constructing your own fence within your own property’s boundaries if you cannot come to an agreement.

Does homeowners insurance cover fences?

If your home insurance policy includes additional structures, it’s likely that your property’s fence is included.
You’ll also want to refer to your policy to see what your coverage limit is on additional structures, but a common coverage amount is up to 10% of your main structure’s limit. 
The cause of damage will also have to be a
named peril
in your policy, like a windstorm, vandalism, or a falling object, for your fence to be covered by your homeowners insurance.

How to save money on homeowners insurance in South Dakota

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