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So, during one of the tornadoes in March of this year, the shared fence between my property and my neighbor's property was destroyed. My neighbor is a realty company that rents out the single-family home.

I had been trying to communicate with them for months about how we wanted to handle the repairs before getting any substantial response.

My insurance promised to cover replacement costs for half of the fence, around $2250. I priced out all the materials I would need to replace the full fence: around $1750.

I then offered to rebuild the fence myself if they bought the materials, and told them the precise cost including taxes and delivery. I also told them the specific amount my insurance covered.

They never acknowledged my offer, so I waited to do anything with it.

In mid-October, out of the blue a contractor crew shows up with materials and starts ripping out the damaged fence. They had never told me they were hiring a crew, nor shown me any bids or quotes. Also, the crew did a poor job that will need to be corrected before the fence is reliable.

When I asked them about it, they said we would go half-and-half with it, since "that would be the most fair". I never agreed to that, nor did I immediately turn it down, but I asked them for a written quote, and they provided an invoice.

After receiving the invoice and pointing out that it was higher than my insurance had covered, I reminded them of the offer I had originally made. I also pointed out that they had never cleared the arrangement with me before-hand.

I told them I would need to either buy more materials and put in more labor to reinforce the fence, and that would reduce the amount I could pay them for the fence; or they would need to bring a contractor back to repair the poor workmanship before I could pay them the amount my insurance covered. I again told them the most I could promise was the amount my Insurance covered minus the costs to me to reinforce the new fence.

They then started threatening to sue and/or take the fence out if I wouldn't pay. They also said they already paid the contractor in full.

I am quite confident they don't have any grounds for a successful lawsuit, and I started researching relevant laws and case law in Arkansas. The most helpful thing I found was the AR Supreme Court's Model Jury Instructions-Civil, Chapter 24 regarding Contract Formation, and I believe they support my stance that I never entered into a binding contract with them, and am not obligated to pay anything more than the amount I offered. I also think I may not even be obligated to pay that amount I specified to them, given that they never acknowledged or agreed to my offer.

I have kept every communication I've had with any representatives of their company, as well as almost every communication I've had with anyone at all regarding the fence, as most of it was over text.

My question is: are the Model Jury Instructions considered legally relevant if a lawsuit were to occur, and more broadly, are there any grounds to enforce a payment that I never agreed to either verbally or in writing, and that I explicitly stated I likely could not pay the full amount of? I'm also curious if there seems to be enough here to counter-sue them for any attorney and court costs related to the lawsuit?

Edit: According to my understanding of Arkansas property laws, fences on the property line between 2 properties are considered jointly-owned, so I have a responsibility to help with the fence. My understanding is that what form that responsibility takes is primarily between the 2 property owners, although a general 50-50 split would be considered standard. The issue is just that they never consulted me before hiring a specific contractor, and didn't give me an opportunity to weigh in on the pricing, and ignored my more affordable offer.

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    How sure are you that the fence is jointly owned? In UK, a boundary fence is usually owned by one party or the other, as specified in the Title Deeds. If they are jointly responsible, that is made clear. Dec 20, 2023 at 20:23
  • @WeatherVane In Arkansas, fences on the property line between 2 properties are considered jointly owned, so I do have a responsibility to help with or fund repairs. The question is whether my neighbor can just unilaterally pick a contractor and a price without asking or involving me and expect me to pay that amount. I'll update the question to clarify that. Thanks! Dec 21, 2023 at 13:05
  • Also in UK the property owner is often not the letting agent, responsible for organising the upkeep of the property, and who charges the owner or the letter as appropriate. One of the less scrupulous agents' tricks is to get quotes and then engage their best mate to do repairs at a discount, pocketing the difference. Dec 21, 2023 at 20:31

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The law only says that in this circumstance, the burden of repair "shall be equally borne and maintained by both parties". The law does not say that one party has superior powers of decision. As far as a solution is concerned, if you can't work out a satisfactory solution then you will have to get a lawyer. The law simply says "equally borne", you work it out or hire a lawyer who makes the argument that your solution is more equitable.

Insofar as you do not have offer-and-acceptance, there is no contract, there is just an abstract obligation to share the cost. You did, however, do the things that constitute a proper offer whereas they made no offer at all. The courts are more likely to accept your side of the story, except that the other party preemptively rendered your main contribution (labor) moot. Your prior offer might limit how much the courts would require you to contribute to the fence-repair bill. I am setting aside the question of whether the cost of the repair is covered by insurance anyhow.

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