Thursday, June 9, 2011
Donald Trump was a terrible candidate for president, but his unneighborly actions are doing much to educate the world about the Law of Fences. Trump is currently in the midst of a bitter fight with a Scottish couple who refuse to sell their home to make way for a Trump-designed golf course. To put a little heat on the holdouts, Trump constructed a rickety fence around their property and then sent them a bill for half of the cost. It turns out that in Scotland, this is all perfectly legal. Slate has a nice explanation of the legal basics:
Fence laws originated with disputes over livestock, which may wander off their owner's land and cause damage. Judges and legislators have developed three different schemes for allocating the costs of restraining animals. Countries or states with "fence-in" systems require ranchers to build and pay for fences to keep their cattle on their land. "Fence-out" regimes allow livestock to go where they please, and impose the cost of fencing on neighbors who don't want animals on their property. Lastly, a few Solomonic legislatures have split the difference, forcing neighbors to share the cost of a fence, even if one of them doesn't want it. But don't be alarmed, suburbanites. Most states restrict their fence-out and cost-sharing rules to less populated regions or to those who own livestock, so your neighbor probably can't stick you with a bill for the cost of his white picket fence. As Robert Frost famously noted, there's no need for good fences where there are no cows.
The entire piece is worth a read.