Sen. Stoops has introduced SB 308 regarding Indiana’s partition fence law. First, a disclosure: I’m going to do you, the readers, a disservice. There are many wonders and mysteries to be found in Indiana’s fence law, but I don’t really feel like going back and researching them to provide a fuller description of what they are. I’m just going to look at the bit that’s in this SB 308. My best guess is that Sen. Stoops has some neighbors in his district who aren’t getting along. The current partition fence law says, in part, that when there is an existing fence and a neighbor uses that fence as part of a project to enclose land that wasn’t previously enclosed, the existing fence becomes a “partition fence.” The person who put up the new fencing has to pay the owner of the existing fence 50% of what that existing fence cost. SB 308 would eliminate that provision and provide that the person who built the existing fence is responsible for its maintenance.
I can see this either way. On the one hand, the owner of the existing fence put it up for his or her own purposes, and those purposes continue to be served even if the other neighbor piggy backs off of it to enclose some additional property. On the other hand, the neighbor is a free rider with respect to the existing fence and maybe that isn’t fair either. I’m a city-dweller and maybe don’t appreciate the full importance of fencing, but this law does seem like one of those things that was probably incredibly important for 19th century Hoosiers that seems like a bit of an anachronism in the 21st century.