The County Attorney provides legal advice to Township Trustees. This includes providing advice regarding the Township Trustees’ responsibilities as fence viewers.
When neighboring property owners cannot agree on the installation and/or maintenance of a partition fence between their lands, Iowa Code Chapter 359A gives one adjoining owner the power to compel the other adjoining owner to erect and maintain partition fences, and keep the same in good repair. Township Trustees act as “fence viewers” to determine any controversy arising under Iowa Code Chapter 359A. Fence viewers may determine the obligations, rights, and duties of the respective parties in a partition fence dispute, and assign to each owner the part which he or she shall erect, maintain, rebuild, trim or cut back, or pay for. The Trustees fix the value thereof, and prescribe the time within which the same shall be completed or paid for, and in the case of repair, may specify the kind of repairs to be made. Fence viewers do NOT have the power to determine the location of a partition fence. The fees of trustees acting as fence viewers are paid by the parties involved, as determined by the trustees.
The general steps in the fence viewing process are as follows:
1. A written request by one adjoining property owner to the neighboring property owner demanding that s/he erect or maintain a definite portion of the partition fence within a reasonable time. A form for this purpose is found at this link.
2. If the neighbors cannot agree, the landowner must file a complaint with the Clerk and Trustees of the proper Township. A form for the Complaint is found at this link. Fees for the fence viewing expenses will be assessed and collected from the Complaining Party at this time.
3. The Trustees will then schedule a hearing on the fence viewing complaint. Both neighbors will receive notice at least 5 days prior to the hearing. The Notice of Hearing will be in a form much like this. The hearing will usually be held at the location of the fence in dispute where both parties will be allowed to present evidence and proof to the fence viewers.
4. Following the hearing, the Trustees will enter a written Order that may include:
- Assigning to each party the part which s/he shall erect, maintain, rebuild, trim or cut back, or pay for;
- Setting the value thereof and prescribing the time within which same shall be completed or paid for, and
- In case of repair, may specify the kind of repairs to be made and when to be completed.
A sample template form for a fence viewing order can be found here. The Order will be binding on the parties and their successors to the properties, unless changed on appeal.
5. If the fence is not erected, rebuilt, or repaired within the time prescribed in the order, the complaining owner, if he wants the work done, must deposit with the Fence Viewers a sum of money sufficient to pay the cost of the work, the fees of the Fence Viewers, and costs. The Fence Viewers will then cause the fence to be erected, rebuilt, or repaired where same is not accomplished within thirty days after the time fixed in the order. The defaulting party has ten days to pay the expenses incurred to the county treasurer. After this time the Fence Viewers will certify to the county auditor the full amount due from the defaulting party together with a legal description of the real estate owned by the defaulting party and such sum will be entered upon the tax list and collected as other taxes. This is the form for certifying the non-payment of costs.
6. The Township Clerk will file a certified copy of the fence viewing proceedings with the Winneshiek County Recorder and the fencing responsibilities will then be reflected in both parties’ abstracts.
7. An appeal may be taken from any decision or order of the Fence Viewers to the district court of Iowa. The party filing the appeal must post a bond to stop the fencing requirements during the pending appeal.
The following fence viewing fillable pdf forms are available for township trustees and public use:
- Request to Neighbor
- Fence Viewing Complaint
- Notice of Hearing
- Written Decision
- Certificate of Nonpayment
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.