A fence is a structure that encloses an area, typically outdoors, and is usually constructed from posts that are connected by boards, wire, rails or netting.A fence differs from a wall in not having a solid foundation along its whole length.
Alternatives to fencing include a ditch (sometimes filled with water, forming a moat).
A balustrade or railing is a fence to prevent people from falling over an edge, most commonly found on a stairway, landing, or balcony. Railing systems and balustrades are also used along roofs, bridges, cliffs, pits, and bodies of water.
In most developed areas the use of fencing is regulated, variously in commercial, residential, and agricultural areas. Height, material, setback, and aesthetic issues are among the considerations subject to regulation.
The following types of areas or facilities often are required by law to be fenced in, for safety and security reasons:
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Servitudesare legal arrangements of land use arising out of private agreements. Under the feudal system, most land in England was cultivated in common fields, where peasants were allocated strips of arable land that were used to support the needs of the local village or manor. By the sixteenth century the growth of population and prosperity provided incentives for landowners to use their land in more profitable ways, dispossessing the peasantry. Common fields were aggregated and enclosed by large and enterprising farmers—either through negotiation among one another or by lease from the landlord—to maximize the productivity of the available land and contain livestock. Fences redefined the means by which land is used, resulting in the modern law of servitudes.
In the United States, the earliest settlers claimed land by simply fencing it in. Later, as the American government formed, unsettled land became technically owned by the government and programs to register land ownership developed, usually making raw land available for low prices or for free, if the owner improved the property, including the construction of fences. However, the remaining vast tracts of unsettled land were often used as a commons, or, in the American West, "open range" as degradation of habitat developed due to overgrazing and a tragedy of the commons situation arose, common areas began to either be allocated to individual landowners via mechanisms such as the Homestead Act and Desert Land Act and fenced in, or, if kept in public hands, leased to individual users for limited purposes, with fences built to separate tracts of public and private land.
Ownership of a fence on a boundary varies. The last relevant original title deed(s)and a completed seller's property information form may document which side has to put up and has installed any fence respectively; the first using "T" marks/symbols (the side with the "T" denotes the owner); the latter by a ticked box to the best of the last owner's belief with no duty, as the conventionally agreed conveyancing process stresses, to make any detailed, protracted enquiry. Commonly the mesh or panelling is in mid-position. Otherwise it tends to be on non-owner's side so the fence owner might access the posts when repairs are needed but this is not a legal requirement. Where estate planners wish to entrench privacy a close-boarded fence or equivalent well-maintained hedge of a minimum height may be stipulated by deed. Beyond a standard height planning permission is necessary.
Where a rural fence or hedge has (or in some cases had) an adjacent ditch, the ditch is normally in the same ownership as the hedge or fence, with the ownership boundary being the edge of the ditch furthest from the fence or hedge.The principle of this rule is that an owner digging a boundary ditch will normally dig it up to the very edge of their land, and must then pile the spoil on their own side of the ditch to avoid trespassing on their neighbour. They may then erect a fence or hedge on the spoil, leaving the ditch on its far side. Exceptions exist in law, for example where a plot of land derives from subdivision of a larger one along the centre line of a previously-existing ditch or other feature, particularly where reinforced by historic parcel numbers with acreages beneath which were used to tally up a total for administrative units not to confirm the actual size of holdings, a rare instance where Ordnance Survey maps often provide more than circumstantial evidence namely as to which feature is to be considered the boundary.
On private land in the United Kingdom, it is the landowner's responsibility to fence their livestock in. Conversely, for common land, it is the surrounding landowners' duty to fence the common's livestock out such as in large parts of the New Forest. Large commons with livestock roaming have been greatly reduced by 18th and 19th century Acts for enclosure of commons covering most local units, with most remaining such land in the UK's National Parks.
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Distinctly different land ownership and fencing patterns arose in the eastern and western United States. Original fence laws on the east coast were based on the British common law system, and rapidly increasing population quickly resulted in laws requiring livestock to be fenced in. In the west, land ownership patterns and policies reflected a strong influence of Spanish law and tradition, plus the vast land area involved made extensive fencing impractical until mandated by a growing population and conflicts between landowners. The "open range" tradition of requiring landowners to fence out unwanted livestock was dominant in most of the rural west until very late in the 20th century, and even today, a few isolated regions of the west still have open range statutes on the books. More recently, fences are generally constructed on the surveyed property line as precisely as possible. Today, across the nation, each state is free to develop its own laws regarding fences. In many cases for both rural and urban property owners, the laws were designed to require adjacent landowners to share the responsibility for maintaining a common boundary fenceline. Today, however, only 22 states have retained that provision.
Some U.S. states, including Texas, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina, have enacted laws establishing that purple paint markings on fences (or trees) are the legal equivalent of "No Trespassing" signs. The laws are meant to spare landowners, particularly in rural areas, from having to continually replace printed signs that often end up being stolen or obliterated by the elements.
The value of fences and the metaphorical significance of a fence, both positive and negative, has been extensively utilized throughout western culture. A few examples include:
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Barbed wire, also known as barb wire, occasionally corrupted as bobbed wire or bob wire, is a type of steel fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strands. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property. It is also a major feature of the fortifications in trench warfare.
In agriculture, fences are used to keep animals in or out of an area. They can be made from a wide variety of materials, depending on terrain, location and animals to be confined. Most agricultural fencing averages about 4 feet (1.2 m) high, and in some places, the height and construction of fences designed to hold livestock is mandated by law.
A hedge or hedgerow is a line of closely spaced shrubs and sometimes trees, planted and trained to form a barrier or to mark the boundary of an area, such as between neighbouring properties. Hedges used to separate a road from adjoining fields or one field from another, and of sufficient age to incorporate larger trees, are known as hedgerows. Often they serve as windbreaks to improve conditions for the adjacent crops, as in bocage country. When clipped and maintained, hedges are also a simple form of topiary.
The freedom to roam, or "everyman's right", is the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreation and exercise. The right is sometimes called the right of public access to the wilderness or the "right to roam".
Adverse possession, sometimes colloquially described as "squatter's rights", is a legal principle under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property — usually land — may acquire legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission (licence) of its legal owner. The possession by a person is not adverse if they are in possession as a tenant or licences of the legal owner.
Common land is land owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel.
The open-fields doctrine, in the U.S. law of criminal procedure, is the legal doctrine that a "warrantless search of the area outside a property owner's curtilage" does not violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, "unless there is some other legal basis for the search," such a search "must exclude the home and any adjoining land that is within an enclosure or otherwise protected from public scrutiny."
In common law, the curtilage of a house or dwelling is the land immediately surrounding it, including any closely associated buildings and structures, but excluding any associated "open fields beyond", and also excluding any closely associated buildings, structures, or divisions that contain the separate intimate activities of their own respective occupants with those occupying residents being persons other than those residents of the house or dwelling of which the building is associated. It delineates the boundary within which a home owner can have a reasonable expectation of privacy and where "intimate home activities" take place. It is an important legal concept in certain jurisdictions for the understanding of search and seizure, conveyancing of real property, burglary, trespass, self-defense, and land use planning.
An electric fence is a barrier that uses electric shocks to deter animals and people from crossing a boundary. The voltage of the shock may have effects ranging from discomfort to death. Most electric fences are used today for agricultural fencing and other forms of animal control, although they are also used to protect high-security areas such as military installations or prisons, where potentially lethal voltages may be used.
A hurdle is a moveable section of light fence. In the United States, terms such as "panel", "pipe panel" or simply "fence section" are used to describe moveable sections of fencing intended for agricultural use and crowd control; "hurdle" refers primarily to fences used as jumping obstacles for steeplechasing with horses or human track and field competition.
A chain-link fence is a type of woven fence usually made from galvanized or LLDPE-coated steel wire. The wires run vertically and are bent into a zig-zag pattern so that each "zig" hooks with the wire immediately on one side and each "zag" with the wire immediately on the other. This forms the characteristic diamond pattern seen in this type of fence.
A pet fence or fenceless boundary is an electronic system designed to keep a pet or other domestic animal within a set of predefined boundaries without the use of a physical barrier. A mild electric shock is delivered by an electronic collar if its warning sound is ignored. The system was first invented and patented by Richard Peck in 1973.
A pest-exclusion fence is a barrier that is built to exclude certain types of animal pests from an enclosure. This may be to protect plants in horticulture, preserve grassland for grazing animals, separate species carrying diseases from livestock, prevent troublesome species entering roadways, or to protect endemic species in nature reserves. These fences are not necessarily traditional wire barriers, but may also include barriers of sound, or smell.
A Fence Viewer is a town or city official who administers fence laws by inspecting new fences and settles disputes arising from trespass by livestock that have escaped enclosure.
A synthetic fence, plastic fence or vinyl or PVC fence is a fence made using synthetic plastics, such as vinyl (PVC), polypropylene, nylon, polythene (polyethylene) ASA, or from various recycled plastics. Composites of two or more plastics can also be used to increase strength and UV stability of a fence. Synthetic fencing was first introduced to the agricultural industry in the 1980s as a low cost/durable solution for long lasting horse fencing. Now, synthetic fencing is used for agricultural fencing, horse race track running rail, and residential use. Synthetic fencing is generally available preformed, in a wide variety of styles. It tends to be easy to clean, resists weathering and has low maintenance requirements. However, it also can be more expensive than comparable materials, and cheaper products can be less sturdy than more traditional fence materials. Some types may become brittle, faded or degrade in quality after long exposure to extreme hot or cold conditions. Recently, titanium dioxide (TiO2) and other UV stabilisers have proven to be a beneficial additives in the manufacturing process of vinyl. This has greatly improved the durability of vinyl by providing essential UV protection from the sun's harmful rays, preventing premature ageing and cracking of the product, making it more durable than other materials such as wood.
In the Western United States and Canada, open range is rangeland where cattle roam freely regardless of land ownership. Where there are "open range" laws, those wanting to keep animals off their property must erect a fence to keep animals out; this applies to public roads as well. Land in open range that is designated as part of a "herd district" reverses liabilities, requiring an animal's owner to fence it in or otherwise keep it on the person's own property. Most eastern states and jurisdictions in Canada require owners to fence in or herd their livestock.
Crow v Wood EWCA Civ 5 is an English land law case, confirming an easement commonly exists for the right to have a fence or wall kept in repair expressed in earlier deeds, which is a right which is capable of being "granted" by law and secondly, as a separate but on the facts, related issue, of the right of common land pasture asserted by continued use.
The Fence Cutting Wars occurred near the end of the 19th century in the American Old West, and were a series of disputes between farmers and cattlemen with larger land holdings. As newcomers came to the American West to farm, established cattlemen began to fence off their larger tracts of land with barbed wire in order to protect them from the farmers' claims. The settlers viewed this as a closing of the open range, and began to cut fences to attempt to reclaim lands in the public domain. The ensuing, widespread series of conflicts was known as the Fence Cutting Wars.
An aluminum fence is a fence constructed primarily out of the element aluminium. Due to the metal’s low density and ability to resist corrosion, it has become a popular choice as lightweight, durable fence and railing structure.
An occupation crossing allows an landowner whose land is split in two by a (new) railway to retain access from one parcel of land to the other. Where is crossing a railway line, it is a special kind of railway level crossing.
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