If you intend to construct a fence around your property, it is important to determine whether or not you require a permit. This will prevent any potential violation of regulations and potential consequences such as fines or dismantling the fence.
Local authorities (mostly at the county level) require that you apply for a limited permit before you erect any type of fence around your homestead. This is to allow the relevant bodies to determine whether the structure (fence) to be put up complies with local land development laws and regulations.
Where Can I Get A Fencing Permit From?
In most cases, you can apply for a fencing permit from your local planning office, town hall, or any other location designated for the issuance of building permits by your local authorities. Alternatively, many local governments and planning departments have online application portals for such permits. All you need is to read through the requirements, prepare the required documentation and attach it to the official fence permit application form.
If you are working with a licensed contractor, the best option is to have them handle the permit application on your behalf. Most of them have qualified staff whose main duties are to liaise with local officials for building permits of all types. They will have a better understanding of the requirements, who to talk to, and where to obtain the permits.
Different counties and other government bodies at the local level have their requirements and application procedures for fence permits. Here are a few randomly picked examples from a few states and counties in the United States:
Fence Permits by state
Do I Need to Tell My Neighbor I Am Installing A Fence?
You may or may not be required to inform your neighbor before you install a fence depending on local regulations and other considerations. Laws regarding installing fences in populated residential areas differ from one location to another. In some cases, you may not be required to inform neighbors but it’s common courtesy to do so even if the fence is on your property.
While laws differ depending on location, there are circumstances where it is likely that you are required to inform your neighbor(s) before you install a fence around your property, such as:
Shared lot leases
You may be required to inform neighbors that you have a shared lot lease before you install a fence on your property. You do not have exclusive rights to the lot and therefore need to seek approval from co-owners before any major construction projects. In such cases, it’s advisable to involve a property lawyer.
If the fence will block access to a shared facility such as road, pathway, ocean view, or recreation area. To avoid conflict, inform your neighbors and find a way not to inconvenience them after the fence has been installed.
When building tall fences
Tall fences that may act as windbreakers, block views, or natural light to neighboring properties can be a source of conflict and lawsuits. You may obtain a permit to erect a tall fence but it’s also advisable to talk to your neighbors and see if they have an issue regarding the specifications of your fence.
Location of the fence
If the fence you are installing or upgrading lies directly on the property line and not on your side of the lot, then you may face conflict with your neighbors at some point on ownership of the fence. There are specific laws regarding fence ownership where the fence is in what can be considered “no man’s land” in some locations. Be sure to iron out issues with your neighbors regarding the fence and involve a property lawyer.
In most cases, however, individual property owners don’t need to tell their neighbors or seek their approval by law if the fence lies within their lot although it’s common courtesy to do so. To be safe, tell your neighbors about your plans to avoid conflicts or lawsuits in the future.
How Far Does the Fence Need to Be from The Property Line?
To be safe, you should install your fence at least half a meter from the property line. However, it’s common practice in most places for homeowners to erect fences directly on the property line and take responsibility for maintaining their side of the fence. Ownership of the fence can be shared or claimed through occupancy if you are responsible for maintaining the fence from your side.
While determining where to position your fence, it is recommended to refer to local regulations regarding land and fences as there is likely to be a clause on the same. This distance will vary depending on the regulations and planning laws in your location. More importantly, make sure that you get a land surveyor to check the property lines and advice before you proceed with the installation.
Who Gets the Good Side of The Fence?
There may be no specific guidelines in most states regarding the aesthetics of your fence or which side should face away from your property. However, you may be forced to paint or redesign the exterior of your fence if it is facing a public facility, in a controlled neighborhood, or urban area. However, regulations in some locations require that the neighbors get the good side.
You could also choose to adopt the same finishing on both sides of the fence so as not to cause conflict with your neighbors or split costs so that they can take care of their side of the fence. This is a decision that you can arrive at after consulting your neighbors regarding your plans. If possible, involve the installer in the discussion too.
What If My Neighbor Doesn't Pay for Half of The Fence?
You are not obligated to split installation costs with your neighbor if the fence belongs to you or is entirely on your lot. In cases where the fence is erected on the property line, you can still claim ownership through several means including occupancy. Be sure that you have all the documentation showing that you are the one who paid for the installation and sorely responsible for its maintenance.
What Is the Height Limit of a Fence?
Height limits for fences vary from one location to another in the United States. The height is usually determined by local planning/zoning laws and regulations. This is why you are required by law to submit detailed plans when applying for a fence permit in any location. The plans should have clearly stated specifications for approval and will be verified after construction by local planning officials.