Filed Under:Claims, Education & Training

Fences, Walls, and Barriers in Between

Material, Intended Purpose Determine Coverage

If someone asks you what a fence is, the image that springs to mind would probably involve posts and boards or pickets, barbed wire, or chain link. But you would have a definite image of a fence. So when a subscriber recently asked me the difference between a fence and a wall, my first reaction was that a fence is a fence—you just know it when you see it. That, however, doesn’t really hold up in court.

The subscriber stated: “An issue that seems to come up frequently involves fences and walls. Fences are not covered property under the CP 00 10 except for certain named perils under the coverage extensions. Since neither is defined under the policy, there appears to be differences of opinion even within my company on what is covered and what is not. It would be nice if the form discussed both fences and walls.”

Materials and Meanings
Since the terms are not defined, we look to their common, everyday meaning. According to Merriam-Webster Online, a fence is “a barrier intended to prevent escape or intrusion or to mark a boundary; especially such a barrier made of posts and wire or boards.” A wall is “1a: a high, thick masonry structure forming a long rampart or an enclosure chiefly for defense —often used in plural; b: a masonry fence around a garden, park or estate; c: a structure that serves to hold back pressure (as of water or sliding earth); 2: one of the sides of a room or building connecting floor and ceiling or foundation and roof; 3: the side of a footpath next to buildings.” 

The difference, based on these definitions, is that walls appear to be considered masonry structures as opposed to fences, which are usually made of posts and wire or boards. The word “structure” is used in definition of a “wall” but not for “fence.” Thus, a wall can likely be differentiated from a fence in the materials used to construct it. Of course, it could be problematic that the definition of “wall” refers to a masonry fence

Privacy Fences 
These definitions could be applied to this question from another FC&S subscriber submitted several years ago:

This loss involves a condominium complex that has a standard ISO commercial property policy. Due to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the insured’s wood privacy fences or walls sustained severe damage. The standard ISO forms contain an exclusion of fencing; however, it affords coverage for retaining walls that are permanently attached to the building.

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