My question involves real estate located in the State of: Florida
An adjoining property owner ("Neighbor") removes a boundary fence without notification or written consent of the other property owner ("Owner"). (The Neighbor bought the property about
a year ago. And the Owner has owned their property for over 25 years.) The Owner tells the Neighbor that the Owner has ownership rights to the fence and asks to have the fence returned to its original location. The Neighbor refuses. The Owner sends a nicely worded demand letter to the Neighbor requesting that the fence be returned to its original location. The Neighbor has not acted.
My understanding of the Florida Statute is as follows:
Boundary Fence Law: If a boundary fence is pre-existing on a property purchased by a new owner, then the new owner has joint ownership rights to the boundary fence with the adjoining property owner. Neither property owner can remove or alter the fence without notification and written permission from the other property owner. Additionally, according to the local code enforcement division, the Neighbor was required to have obtained a permit from the building division before doing anything with respect to the fence.
Boundary by Acquiescence: A boundary fence by continued occupation and acquiescence in a line other than the true boundary for the period of the statute of limitations, or more than seven years, defaults title of the property underneath the fence and the fence itself to an adjoining property owner. Which would mean that even if the Neighbor, as the new property owner, claims ownership of the fence and the property underneath (through land survey or deed documents), the Owner can claim full ownership of the fence and land underneath pursuant to boundary by acquiescence, since (a) the Owner has maintained and made use of the fence for more than seven years (greater than 25 years); (b) the previous adjoining property owners were absent owners, who therefore neglected the fence; and (c) no evidence exists that the previous property owners protested the fence's existence as an encroachment.
Can the Owner claim full ownership of the fence and property underneath pursuant to the principal of boundary by acquiescence, or are they bound by the boundary fence law, and share joint ownership of the fence?
In either case, the Neighbor would be required by law to return the fence to its original location or pay for the installation of a replacement fence.