Misunderstandings about property lines, fence ownership, maintenance, and spite fences occur more often than most people think. Although most of these disputes could be resolved through negotiations, the stakes might be higher in other cases resulting in hostility.

If you’re ever in such a position, knowing the Delaware law on property lines and fences will be crucial to achieving a peaceful resolution.

Here’s a guide through some of the most relevant laws.

Yes! Although each neighborhood council has different regulations regarding permitting, most of them will demand a building permit when putting up a new fence.
Other townships require a permit to build a fence greater than 7 feet in height in a residential district.

If you’re building the fence around a pool or ball court, you’ll also need a building permit and several other documents. Your local HOAs may also have restrictions regarding material, location, and height restrictions for the fence.

Ensure you check through your neighborhood’s regulations to ascertain whether you’ll need to obtain a permit.

fencing laws delaware

Can I replace an existing fence without a permit?

Yes! Most city and district regulations demand a permit to complete the replacement of part or the whole of your existing fence. Even if you’re replacing the fence with similar material and height, the law will still require you to get a permit.

The only exceptions apply for small repairs and replacements.

How tall can a privacy fence be in Delaware?

Most neighborhoods have a restriction of 6 feet maximum height in residential districts. The front yard fences are required to be around 4 to 4.5 feet, while the backyard and side fences are limited to 6 or 6.5 feet.

If the land is located on a sloping area, the fence can be constructed to a maximum height of 7 feet. For a property located near a corner, the restrictions may be reduced to about 3 feet to facilitate good visibility.

Who owns the fence on property lines in DE?

Delaware fence laws are mainly based on livestock owners. However, it recognizes that a fence on the property line is under the ownership of both adjoining neighbors even if one neighbor isn’t using it.

Every neighbor has to share the costs of maintenance, repairs, and replacement for the fence.

If one neighbor refuses to pay their half whether, for repairs, maintenance, or installation for the fence, the other neighbor can file a case with the ‘Superior court appointed’ fence viewers in your area.

The viewers, usually 5 – 8, will inspect the fence and make a judgment on the charges.

How do you know where the property boundary is?

Information regarding your property line is usually indicated on your title deed. If you don’t have your deeds yet, you can visit your local assessor’s office. Other townships or district offices have also uploaded the property map of your area.

Visit their website and find out the precise location of your property lines.

Hiring a property surveyor is also a great way to find your property lines, especially for neighbors in a dispute. The surveyor should be able to mark out the location for boundary lines, including corner lots.

Can my neighbor build a fence on the property line?

Yes! If the neighbor has any livestock on their property, the Delaware fence laws require that the neighbor builds the fence on the property lines. As long as the fence doesn’t encroach into your side of the property line, there’s no problem.

If by chance, you start keeping animals on your property, you’ll have to compensate the neighbor for the fence. According to the Delaware Code Title 25. Property § 1304, a team of fence viewers should be involved to determine the total amount you should pay to the neighbor.

Can I put up a fence on my side of the property line?

Yes! The Delaware fence and property line laws give every resident the freedom to control and manage their property. So, as long as your fence is at least 2 inches from the property lines, you can erect the fence.

The only guidelines that may limit you are the local zoning ordinances regarding the fence appearance, location, building material, and height.

If you’re in a neighborhood run by a Homeowner’s Association, more rules might also apply.

What is a spite fence?

Spite fences refer to any overly tall or ugly (sometimes both) fence structures, including rows of trees, hedges, or bushes, constructed by a neighbor for no beneficial purpose but to annoy the other neighbor.

In many instances, such fences block the neighbor’s views, access to light and air, or even access to a driveway.

Most states in the country have laws that term such fences as illegal while others work with law court rulings to handle these cases.

Delaware Spite Fence Law

There are no specific laws in the Delaware property line and fence law statutes addressing spite fences. However, the state doesn’t allow landowners to construct a fence to serve their emotional ill-motives.

Delaware courts implement the common law principle that prohibits the construction of spite fences. If the court finds you guilty of such a structure, they may order its removal as well as monetary compensation for any damages caused to your neighbor.

Fence Law Basics

The fundamental fence laws in Delaware were all derived from the English common law rules for fences. The rules state that any adjoining neighbors sharing a boundary fence is required to contribute 50% to the fence maintenance, even if you don’t use it.
Being a ‘fence-in’ state, the Delaware laws also require that any property owner with livestock should fence their property to keep the animals from straying into the other neighbor’s land.

Owners without livestock are under no obligation to build a fence.

There are also numerous local district and neighborhood regulations set by different local authorities in the country. Such laws are critical as they regulate the zoning restrictions for a fence.

Delaware boundary fence laws at a glance

This table provides an overview of some of the state laws governing Delaware’s fence laws and links to their original documents.

StatuesSpite FenceLocal Fence Regulations
Delaware § 25 § 1301 Lawful fence

Delaware Code 25 § 1304 Maintenance of partition fences
In Delaware, a spite fence can be found when:
A structure in the nature of a fence is built or maintained by a property owner just to annoy a neighbor.
Baltimore county government FAQ’s section

New Castle County Permits

Kent County Permitting Requirements

City of Dover Planning and Inspections

Keep in mind; These laws are bound to change with time depending on the new legislation, federal court decisions, and other initiatives. Use the information provided above as a guide and research the latest regulations in your municipality.

FAQ's

According to the fence laws in Delaware, a fence on the property line belongs to the adjoining neighbors. Each neighbor is expected to cater to the maintenance and repairs of the fence.

Neighbors who don’t own livestock are, however, not required to build a partition fence in Delaware.

Although Delaware doesn’t have a law against spite fences, cases of spite fences are handled through the common law principle – which deems spite fences as illegal.

So, you can sue the neighbor in a local court which may order the removal of the fence. The court may also order that the neighbor compensates you for any damages caused by the fence.

Not really. Unless you have explicitly permitted them to hang their things on your fence, any attempts to use your fence for that purpose is considered trespassing.

However, the neighbor may be able to hang things on their side of the fence if both of you are sharing the costs of the fence.

Yes, as long as the painting colors and styles you intend to use aren’t banned by your local HOA rules. For shared fences, you’ll also have to consult your neighbor regarding the painting.

Yes! If you don’t wish to join your neighbor’s fence and use it as a partition fence, the law allows you to build yours next to theirs. All you’ll need to do is ensure that your fence doesn’t encroach into their side of the property line.

Yes! The legal definition of a structure is anything that’s constructed or put up in a fixed position on the ground. However, different county ordinances have different interpretations of a structure, therefore, a fence may not count as a structure in some counties.

The city of Baltimore has a free online permitting system that allows homeowners to receive ePermits. To apply, log in to their DHCD account, or sign up (if you don’t have an account), then apply for the permit.

You’ll need to provide important information such as the name of your contractor and their license number alongside your application. There might also be an online inspection of the project before receiving the permit.

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