Texas Landowner Lien for Damaged Fence

Assume that a landowner has pasture that abuts a highway.  The landowner has a solid barbed-wire fence to keep his livestock on his property.  One night, a car accident occurs and a motorist crashes through and causes significant damage to the landowner’s fence.

With costs to repair barbed wire fences in the Panhandle averaging $10,000/mile, a vehicle damaging a landowner’s fence can be a serious economic hardship on the landowner.  Can the landowner take action to recover the cost of repair from the motorist?

Yes, based upon a statutory lien in Texas titled the “Lien Related to Damaged Fence.”  Passed in 2001, the Texas Property Code Section 70.501-506 sets forth the requirements and scope of this lien.

To whom does it apply?  The lien provides that a landowner owning property enclosed by a fence or other structure “obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock or other animals” may obtain a lien against a motorist who damages the fence with a motor vehicle if the vehicle is owned by the motorist or if the motorist has consent to drive from the owner of the vehicle at the time of the damage.

How much is it for?  The statute provides that the amount of landowner’s lien is the lesser of (a) the fair market value of the motor vehicle on the date the fence is damaged; or (b) the actual costs incurred by the landowner to repair the fence, recapture any livestock or other animals that escaped as a direct result of the damage to the fence, and costs to have the vehicle towed and stored.  Additionally, the lien grants a landowner of an abandoned vehicle the right to select a towing service to remove the vehicle from the landowner’s property.

To what property does it attach?  The lien attaches only to the motor vehicle that caused the fence damage.  It does not attach to any other assets of the driver or vehicle owner.

How is the lien obtained?  A landowner must obtain a court order granting such lien.

How is the lien perfected? In order to perfect the lien on the vehicle, a landowner must have it recorded on the title as provided by the Texas Transportation Code Section 501.111-117.  This requires recording the lien in the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle’s titling system or filing an application of title disclosing the lien with the county assessor-collector.

When is the lien discharged?  The lien is discharged only upon payment being made to the landowner.  It does not otherwise expire.  Once payment has been made, the landowner must execute a discharge of the lien to the owner.

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