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Neighbors and fences, good and bad

For reasons that will become apparent, I would prefer to remain anonymous, but I have a question about fences between two properties. Actually, I have a statement and then a question. The statement is my neighbor is a slob and his wooden fence, which sits on the property line, is a mess. It's half-propped up, has missing boards and generally looks like it would make good kindling. Now the question: Is there anything I can do about it?

— Aggrieved neighbor, Medford

Well, Aggrieved, yes, there is something you can do about it, but don't count on the source of your complaint remaining anonymous to your neighbor. Both the city of Medford and the state of Oregon have rules about fences that are in disrepair. Here's what they say:

The city of Medford housing code sets a variety of rules intended to ensure safety and preserve existing housing. Under the category of "Renter & Owner Occupied Housing Quality Standards," the city says: "Damaged or broken fences that pose a danger to people or a neighbor's property must be repaired or replaced."

It's possible, Aggrieved, that you would have to prove that the propped-up neighbor's fence could fall on you or yours, but you can report it to the city's code enforcement office by calling 541-774-2016.

The state has more specific rules (ORS 96.010-96.060) that can be brought into play. If a neighbor neglects to repair or rebuild a fence that partitions properties from each other, a complaint may be filed with a justice of the peace, who can then order the necessary repairs. Note, however, that under state law, the fence owner can demand that the adjoining property owner pay for half of the cost of the repairs. Conversely, Aggrieved, after notifying your neighbor, you could repair the fence yourself and be legally in the right to demand that your neighbor pay for half of the cost.

None of this is likely to engender neighborly love, but if you feel that your subtle and not-so-subtle hints are not working, you do have legal recourse to get the work done.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.