If you are planning to build a fence around your homestead, then you should find out if you need a permit. This way you can avoid the risk of inadvertently breaking the law and having to pay a fine or removing the fence altogether.

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.

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.

Do I Need A Fence Permit Fence Laws 2021

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:

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.

What is the Fence Distance from the Property Line?

If there is a specific requirement in local regulations regarding property lines and fences, then you should make sure that the distance is observed. It is common practice for lot owners to install fences directly on the property line as leaving a distance could leave a part of your lot to your neighbors.

How Far Does A Fence Have to Be from The Road?

The standard distance to keep between public roads and fences in most places is at least two meters. However, this varies depending on local zoning and planning regulations. Some places require at least a meter while others can go as high as five meters. Refer to the requirements for obtaining a fence permit for your location for the exact figure.

Can My Neighbor Build A Fence On The Property Line?

Your neighbor is allowed to build a fence on the property line provided they have obtained a permit. Some local laws require that they keep the good side facing your property.

Fence Permits in California

You need a permit to build any type of fence in California. The Building and Safety Division under the Public Works Department in the state is responsible for issuing these permits at the federal, state, and city-level. Since building a fence is considered a major alteration, processing for permits is done normally.

California residents that require a permit can obtain application forms from the government website. There are different forms depending on the type of applicant (commercial or residential) and requirements for both differ. Applications can also be made physically at the nearest Public Works Department office.

Also, note that different counties within California have their own set of regulations regarding fences. You will likely need to apply for the fence permit through your local county office or online portal as opposed to the federal Public Works office. For instance, residents of Santa Clara County, CA can read about fence permits and make applications through the county government website. If unsure about where to obtain a permit, have your contractor guide you or make the application on your behalf.

Fence Permits in Texas

Like in California, Texas also requires its residents to apply for a permit before they can erect a fence around residential or commercial properties. In Texas, fence permits can be obtained from local city or county offices or via an online application on the relevant local government/ building department portal.

Each city, county, and town in the state has its own set of laws regarding building permits that include new and existing fence construction projects. For instance, Dallas residents can obtain a fence application form online, fill it and submit it physically or electronically.

Here are some additional links to fence permit application forms and portals for a few select locations within Texas.

If your county or town is not on the select list above, you can find out from your contractor or enquire from your local government building and planning office.

New Mexico Fence Permits

Federal and local building and planning regulations in New Mexico require that residents obtain permits from local government offices before erecting any type of fence. There are specific regulations in each county, town, and city in the state touching on various types of fences. Fences are generally required not to exceed a certain height and must be built according to local safety and building standards.

Like most other states, it’s highly unlikely that you will need to visit a central or state-level office to obtain a fence permit in New Mexico. Residents can easily obtain a permit from their local government websites or offices or have their contractor handle the application on their behalf before erecting the fence. For example, Albuquerque residents can obtain a home improvement permit from the local government planning offices if they need to build a fence on an existing property.

Be sure to go through local building regulations with a licensed contractor in your location before you fill out the permit. This way, you can be sure the specification of the fence you are planning to build meets the requirements even before you submit a permit application. Fence permits attract a processing fee that varies from state to state so it’s good to make sure that your application will be approved beforehand.

Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.