I’ve received emails the last few weeks with a myriad of property questions. Keep the questions coming as I learn along with you about property issues and can hopefully help you find solutions to your legal questions. Remember, I prefer to inform rather than advise in this column, so I recommend reading the column with the other side and seeing if you can come to a neighborly resolution with your property disputes.
Fencing Ordinances. The state of Utah allows counties to make fencing ordinances and create a general policy within each county for fencing of farms, subdivisions, and other private property. This ordinance defines a lawful fence. I recommend contacting your county planning and zoning office to gain access to the ordinances. For Sevier County, this is Jason Mackelprang at (435) 893-0420. In Garfield County, contact Kaden Figgins at (435) 676-1157. Piute County’s planner is Verl Bagley and he can be reached at (435) 577-2505 Ext. 1. Lastly, Wayne County’s planning and zoning contact is Commissioner Blackburn. He can be contacted with the general Wayne County government number, (435) 836-1300.
Contribution to a Boundary Fence. When agricultural neighbors in Utah have a fence between their properties, the adjoining landowner can require their neighbor to pay for one half of the cost of the fence if it separates the property, is a reasonable, cost, and customary fence for the area. If the neighbor refuses, the neighbor can be civilly sued for monetary relief due to the damage the unmaintained fence caused to the adjoining landowner. You can find out more by looking at the Utah Code, § 4-26-103.
Leasing agricultural land. Agricultural leases are like other commercial lease contracts. And like commercial lease contracts, everything agreed upon should be written within the contract and the intent of the contract must be very clear. If the tenant can “use” the land, does that mean they can grow crops, graze, or hunt it? Do they have access to the water shares? Can they put their equipment on the property? For example, if you lease acreage to a farmer and state you do not want hunting on the land, but only put in the contract that the farmer can “use” the land, what is the intent of the contract? What is a use? I get many requests for wanting a simple contract, but if we simplify too much, there can be issues in the future due to vagueness, ambiguities, and misunderstandings. So, when in doubt, write it out. If you are currently facing a miscommunication with a tenant or landlord, ask if both of you can write out what you agree to, now, and add it as an amendment to your previous contract. Most disputes can be resolved with patience, listening, and hearing the other perspective. Even if the other side is wrong, sometimes settling on a new agreement can save you attorney costs and social capital.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435.610.1431.