AgEBB-MU CAFNR Extension

Green Horizons

Volume 25, Number 3
Fall 2021

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Part 2: Missouri's Optional Fence Law Counties

Hank Stelzer, MU Extension

In Part 1 of this series, we covered Missouri's "general" fence law. As of May 2021, 19 counties have opted into the "optional county fencing statute" (Chapter 272.210 of the state's fencing statute). These counties are Bates, Cedar, Clinton, Daviess, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Knox, Linn, Macon, Mercer, Newton, Putnam, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan, St. Clair and Worth. So, what are the basic differences between the "general" and "optional" fencing statutes?

Forced Contribution and Maintenance

If either neighboring landowner needs a division fence, the other adjoining neighbor(s) have to pay for half the cost of the "lawful fence" (different definition in optional counties) and maintain half (Missouri statute 272.235). In order to do this, you must first give the neighbor a 90-day written notice before taking any legal proceedings. Current Associate Circuit Judges are not very willing to get into the middle of a disagreement over fence boundaries and maintenance.

Lawful Fence

A lawful fence is defined as the equivalent of four barbed wires supported by posts not more than 12 feet apart, or 15 feet apart with one stay. A stay (very uncommon today) is a vertical wire placed half-way between the 15 feet that holds the wires together. If either neighbor wants a more costly fence, then they will have to build and pay for it (Missouri statute 272.210.1).

No Right-Hand Rule

The optional county fence statutes make no mention of any right-hand rule. Each neighbor is to build and to maintain "half." Disputes are to be taken to the associate circuit court, which appoints three individuals to visit the site and report back to the court (Missouri statute 272.240). While the right-hand rule is tradition in most local option counties, it is not the law.

Actual Damages

If your livestock trespass through your portion of the division fence and it is in need of repair, then you may be liable for the actual damages (not double damages) caused to your neighbor's crops or livestock (Missouri statute 272.230).

It is important to note that neighbors are still free to make a fencing agreement that is different from these statutory provisions. Just be sure it is in writing, signed, and recorded properly (Missouri statute 272.235). If you do deviate from these statutory provisions, it is best to have an attorney draw up a legal document.

More information can be found in MU Guide G810: Missouri Fencing and Boundary Laws. Do not rely upon this series or G810 or G811 for legal advice. This information is a general statement of the law. Direct your questions to an attorney to get relevant facts and act on them in your best interest.

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