Know your rights: It is your fence and you must pay for it

By Richard Alderman
Nov. 2, 2013 at 6:02 a.m.

The fence between my yard and my neighbor's finally wore out and fell apart. I took responsibility for replacing the fence and put it on my side of the property line. I have asked my neighbor to pay his half, and he has refused. He says he cannot afford to pay for a fence right now. I know times are tough, but how do I force him to pay his share?

First, unless you live in an area that has community or civic association rules regarding fences, there is no obligation that anyone installs a fence. Some neighborhoods have rules requiring fencing and designating who must pay, but most do not. If you installed the fence and it is on your property, it is your fence.

Assuming your neighborhood does not have any rules regarding fences, you must pay for it. Although most neighbors do split the costs of a fence, you cannot force your neighbor to pay.

It sounds like he has other expenses that he considers more important. Perhaps you can speak with him and ask that he contribute when he is financially able to do so.

I am a small contractor. I received notice that someone who owes me money just filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. What do I do now to get paid?

The odds are you will not be paid. Basically, filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy means that the person will turn over his nonexempt assets to the bankruptcy court, and in exchange, he will be discharged from all his debts. In Texas, most assets are exempt, however, and it is very unlikely much will be turned over to the court. As a creditor, you must file a claim in the bankruptcy court.

The court then divides the money it receives between all the creditors. Your debt, however, will be discharged regardless of how much you receive, and you cannot take any further steps to collect. To see what property is exempt and may be retained by a person who files bankruptcy, look at the debt collection section on my website,

One of my credit card companies closed my account for being late and not paying in full. My question is, if they closed my account, can they still charge interest and late fees to the account?

Even though your account is closed, you may still be charged interest and fees. Under the terms of your agreement, the credit card company had the right to prevent you from using your card if they determined you were an unacceptable risk.

This decision, however, has no affect on your liability for any money you owe or may owe in the future. If you owe the company money, you must pay it back in accordance with the terms of your agreement. This includes paying interest and fees, when applicable.I do face and body painting at local outdoor fairs and festivals. I charge a small fee for my services. Can I make a freehand copy of cartoon characters? Someone told me this was illegal.

What you were told is true. Federal copyright law protects the cartoon characters you are copying.

This means that you do not have the right to reproduce the character. It doesn't matter whether you make the copy freehand or with the assistance of a machine.

I changed jobs about three months ago. I recently received an email from my former employer stating they overpaid me on my last paycheck. They are requesting I write them a check for the amount of overpayment. Am I legally bound to pay them back?

You are legally bound to pay them back, as they would be bound to pay you more if they underpaid you. When you resigned, your employer owed you a set amount of money based on your employment agreement. As far as the law is concerned, the employer must pay you that amount, no more and no less. If you are overpaid by mistake, you have no legal right to keep the overpayment

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a website at



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