I have a hypothetical question about property rights and structures overhanging the property.

In New York state, let's say I have a neighbor with a wooden fence built slightly back from the border between our two properties. The base of the fence and the posts are on his side. The many years old fence is now leaning over at an angle, and leaning into my property. Let's assume that of a six foot fence, about four feet or so overhangs my property.

My understanding is that I have the right to trim a tree or bush or similar up to the property line. Does the same hold true with fences? If so, could I just cut it down, or would I need to give notice so he has a chance to fix it first?

  • 3
    Fences normally have very strict rules attached about who can change them, how they can be changed, and for what reasons. They're not like trees or shrubbery at all.
    – user4657
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 23:25

1 Answer 1


Under current New York law, small ("de minimis") encroachments are not considered to infringe on your property rights, therefore, legally there is nothing you can do. A fence, even leaning over, is considered a de minimis encroachment.

If you damage the fence, you could face criminal charges for criminal mischief in the 4th Degree which is a class A misdemeanor. Theoretically, you could be charged with 3rd degree criminal mischief, which is felony, but in this case I would be surprised if they did that (usually that only is applied only to actual "criminals").

Your best option is to politely incentivize your neighbor give him a positive reason to work with you on improving the fence.

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