Fences are essential in not only providing privacy and security but also marking out clear boundaries between neighbors in order to avoid unnecessary conflict. And while property owners typically enjoy absolute rights with regards to what they can and can’t do on their properties, there are limitations as far as building boundary fences are concerned.

In most states, a rear and side boundary fence can be as tall as 6 feet, while a front fence can be as tall as 4 feet. And in order for anyone to build a fence that is taller than the prescribed height limits, one will need a permit.

Here is what you should know about height fence restrictions.

Both local authorities and HomeOwners Associations place restrictions on how tall a person can build a fence for the following reasons.

  1. To avoid the creation of blind spots at intersections. Generally, taller fences can impede visibility at intersections. This will make it dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians. To make things safer, local authorities tend to place strict restrictions on how tall one can build a fence that is near an intersection.
  2. For aesthetic considerations. HOAs usually impose fence height restrictions in order to maintain the general aesthetic appeal of properties in their areas.
  3. To minimize incidences of spite fences. There are times when neighbors build extremely tall fences with the sole intention of annoying their neighbors. Both HOAs and local governments place restrictions in order to reduce the likelihood of such cases.
How tall can a fence be

Do I need a permit to build a privacy fence?

In most jurisdictions, you don’t need a permit to build a privacy fence as long as the fence that you intend to build does not exceed the stipulated height restrictions. This is because, in most areas, fencing constructions are considered to be exempt developments.

What are HOA-imposed fence restrictions?

HOA-imposed fence restrictions are restrictions that are outlined in your HomeOwners’ Association bylaws. They usually stipulate what type of materials you can use to build a fence, the height of fences that are allowed, and even colors that are deemed acceptable for your area.

These restrictions tend to be stricter than those that are typically imposed by the city as they are usually geared towards maintaining uniformity and avoiding spite fences. Failure to operate within the confines of these restrictions usually attracts fines. And in some cases, it can even result in the total removal of your fence.

Minimum fence heights

Generally, local authorities do not impose minimum fence heights. Provided a given fence doesn’t exceed a certain height, authorities in most jurisdictions tend to not intervene. As a result, how low one can install a fence is generally a matter of personal discretion on the part of the installer.

Boundary fence

While most jurisdictions impose a maximum fence height restriction — 4 feet for front fences and 6 feet for rear fences –, they generally don’t impose minimum fence heights for boundary fences. As a result, a homeowner is usually free to install a boundary fence that is as low as they want for as long as it accomplishes their intended goal.

Pool fence

Pool fences have a minimum height restriction of 4 feet mainly because such a fence is considered to be a safety and security feature. And while the law typically requires a height of at least 4 feet, fences that are 5 feet or higher are usually preferred.

Max height for a privacy fence

Generally, the max height for a privacy fence is 1.8m (just about 6.5 feet) for rear fences. As for front fences, the height restriction is usually 1.2m (about 4 feet tall).

Max height for a front fence

The max height for a front fence is 4 feet. And if anyone wants to install a taller fence, then seeking a permit from the local authority is usually required.

How do I find fence rules for my state or county?

You can find fence rules for your state or county by visiting the state or county website. Generally, these websites contain information on building codes and bylaws that govern fencing. Also, visiting your HOA offices and asking for a pamphlet of their bylaws will give you a better idea of the fence rules that are applicable to your exact location.

Can I build an 8-foot boundary fence?

Yes, you can build an 8-foot boundary fence provided you get a permit from the local authority in your area. And even if you get the permit, the HOA in your area may have rules against constructing boundary fences that are beyond a certain height and so you may have to also seek their permission to do so. And if either the local authority or your HOA doesn’t approve the construction, then you won’t be able to legally do so.

However, it is important to note that while most jurisdictions place a 1.8m ( about 6.5 feet) height restriction on fences that can be built without permission, there are some that allow homeowners to build rear fences that are as high as 8 feet without needing a permit. Therefore, if you live in such an area, you can build an 8-foot boundary fence without needing anyone’s permission.

FAQ’s

No, a neighbor cannot attach things to your fence that you built on your side of the property line. However, if it is a boundary fence that is built at the boundary, then they have a right to attach things to the fence. This is because they legally own half of the fence. This ownership comes with a few rights, and the right to attach things to the fence is one of them.

However, if they end up damaging the fence because of the weight of the things that they attach to it, they are obligated to repair it on their own. In such a case, the costs of fence repair won’t be split between the neighbors.

It is good to fence etiquette to always install a fence in such a way that your neighbor gets the good side of the fence. In fact, it is customary to do so to such an extent that installing the fence with the good side facing your property will look like you are installing the fence the wrong way. However, there isn’t a law or a rule that makes it mandatory for a person to give their neighbor the good side of the fence.

In order to be fair, some neighbors usually choose to swap the good side after every 10 years to 15 years. This usually applies in cases where the neighbors are sharing the costs of installation. And so every time they have to install a new fence — after the old one wears out — they switch the good side from one neighbor to the other.

Neighbors usually split the cost of a fence. And unless there is a pre-existing agreement or a deed that stipulates how they are supposed to split the cost of setting up a fence, they usually split the cost equally. This is because according to the law, they own the fence jointly and as such, the costs of installing and maintaining the fence are usually shared equally.

In most jurisdictions, there are usually two exceptions to the rule of splitting the cost of a fence. The first has to do with cases where one neighbor wants a fence that is of a higher quality than one that is needed. In such a case, the neighbor wanting the higher quality fence will have to cater for the additional costs.

The other exception relates to cases where one neighbor damages the fence. In such a case, even though neighbors are typically required to share maintenance and repair costs, the neighbor who is at fault is the one who shoulders the full burden of repairing the fence.

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